Thousands of dementia patients in the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) region are getting better care following expert input from a specialist nurse and peer support. We have brought all memory clinics involved in this work up to the standard of the best in the region, through a comprehensive national accreditation programme.

“This process has been highly rewarding, allowing us to reflect upon and enhance the quality of care that we provide. Positive feedback from patients, carers and reviewers alike has offered welcome recognition for a dedicated, hard-working and motivated team.”

Dr Chris Ramsay, Consultant Psychiatrist, North Buckinghamshire Memory Clinic

What was the problem?

850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, which costs £26 billion a year, according to research commissioned through King’s College London and the London School of Economics. In the worst-case scenario modelled by this research, the number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to over a million by 2025, and to over two million by 2051. Despite the scale of this challenge, evidence-based dementia memory clinic services are still of unequal accessibility and quality.

What we did and why

Memory clinics provide valuable support to people with dementia and their carers. Having identified unwarranted variation across our region, Oxford AHSN appointed a specialist nurse to work with six memory clinic teams in Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire, aiming to bring them up to the standard of the best. We did this with the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Memory Services National Accreditation Programme (MSNAP), which provides a structured means of working, embedding consistent high standards in memory clinics.

Three memory clinics in Berkshire (which led the way, having already gaining excellent ratings) supported colleagues elsewhere by helping them evidence standards and identify gaps. This led to the successful exchange of ideas and protocol sharing, encouraging mutual support and a ‘learning cascade.’

Which national priorities does this work address?Oxford Dementia

  • Promoting health equality and best practice
  • Speeding up adoption of innovation into practice to improve clinical outcomes
  • Building a culture of partnership and collaboration
  • Reducing premature mortality
  • Enhancing quality of life for people with long term conditions
  • Positive experience of treatment and care
  • Treating people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm


  • By January 2016, all six memory clinics the Oxford AHSN worked with had been accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Memory Services National Accreditation Programme (MSNAP) – and three of them received the highest ‘excellent’ rating.
  • This work embedded improvements into dementia services, with benefits felt by 8,500 patients and their carers.
  • Patient and carer experience has improved, with more positive feedback.
  • The physical environment of memory clinics has improved.
  • Policies and procedures within memory clinics have improved.
  • Multi-disciplinary and inter-agency working has improved.
  • The clinics are using resources more efficiently, such as by doing more nurse assessment in GP surgeries.

“When we were first considering taking our memory service through the MSNAP review process the prospect was somewhat daunting and overwhelming. We were extremely grateful that the Oxford AHSN was able to provide a very experienced clinician to act as an overall lead.”

Frances Finucane, Team Manager, North Bucks

Tips for implementation

  • Focus on the patient – how will this improve their experience?
  • Focus on the service team – how will this improve their work?
  • Focus on what is good – every service will have something to offer that others could learn from.
  • Build relationships and trust. The programme is about improving existing services, not judging them.
  • Learn from each other.

Next steps and spread

Feedback from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) Memory Services National Accreditation Programme is guiding future plans. The accreditation is valid for two years, so the process is ongoing, with Berkshire clinics already undergoing re-accreditation. Oxford AHSN is working to ensure improvements are embedded into services.

Three further services are working towards gaining MSNAP accreditation later in 2016. If they are successful, it will mean that all 12 memory services in the Oxford AHSN region will have achieved the national benchmark standard.

Find out more

Visit the Royal College of Psychiatrists website for more information about the Memory Services National Accreditation Programme.

Visit the Oxford AHSN website.

Contact for help and advice

Fran Butler, Oxford AHSN Dementia Clinical Network Manager
01865 784991

Martin Leaver, Oxford AHSN Head of Communications
07966 174 183

Programme duration: November 2014 – present