MSc Module Exploring Rights Based Practice and Dementia

This week’s blogs post is a question and answer session by Fiona as she shares her very deep and personal commitment to try to make a positive difference to the lives of those with dementia, their families, and carers.

Question 1: How did your partnership with Alzheimer Scotland start?

I started using twitter in 2012 and in autumn that year Elaine Hunter (@elaineahpmh) and I started a twitter conversation.  Our conversation grew and we began to share thoughts on possible ideas for future partnerships.  These ideas evolved and we organised a study day in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland (@alzscot) for all the occupational therapy students at QMU.  We had fantastic support from colleagues, the Scottish Dementia Working Group (@S_D_W_G) and Fiona MacNeil Associates (@FionaMacNeill)  helped us create a really unique learning opportunity for our students. The Alzheimer Scotland memory bus also came to campus on the same day and was a great source of valuable information for all our wider QMU community. We filmed the day and you can still see it here.

Question 2 : What has been the greatest success of the partnership to date?

For me it has to be the occupational therapy internship programme we developed. We tried after the study day to keep building and creating learning opportunities.  As a result of this hard work we were successful in gaining internships through the Santander Universities UK internship programme.   In partnership with QMU, Alzheimer Scotland and Santander Universities UK we have now employed two interns during the summers of 2013 and 2014.  In 2015 we will have two occupational therapy interns working with SDWG, in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland and QMU.   Our occupational therapy interns have been really impressive and their work with us tends to leave a legacy.

When working with our interns we also recognised there was both a need and an opportunity to think about and reflect on how we support and reach allied health professionals, already in practice, who want to know and understand more about dementia.  It has now been almost three years in development but we are really excited that our new MSc module, “Developing Rights-Based Practice for Allied Health Professionals Working With People With Dementia their Families and Carers”, was approved by QMU and is ready to be taught in September 2015.

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Question 3: Why is an MSc module in dementia so important?

Ah….lots of reasons!  We think the MSc module is very important, as it is the first module at master level exploring rights-based practice and dementia, which has been co-produced and will be co-delivered in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland with a specific focus on allied health professionals. We also hope the MSc module will help to support developing career pathways for AHPs working with people with dementia, their families and carers.  We have also advertised our first Alzheimer Scotland AHP PhD studentship specifically related to occupational therapy and dementia through our partnership work!  Therefore we hope our mater level module may also inspire our AHP’s to consider and undertake an academic career pathway, helping to create and enhance our evidence base for our allied health professions.

Question 4: What makes your MSc module different?

Hopefully lots!  This is a new M-level module exploring rights-based practice and dementia that has been co-produced and will be co-delivered in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland. The diversity of our speakers is really exciting.  We will have speakers from the NHS, academics with a research interest in dementia, and we are hoping to persuade Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland to talk with our students also!    Members of the Scottish Working Dementia Group will be invited to shape and inform the detailed content whilst also be involved as part of the assessment process for the module.

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Question 5: Why is this partnership working important to you?

I have been a qualified occupational therapist for nearly 25 years now.  Yikes!  I have enjoyed the diversity of being an AHP and the many opportunities and challenges this has brought.  Over the last three years however, the opportunity to work in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland has allowed me to refresh a very deep and personal commitment I share with many others to try to make a positive difference to the lives of those with dementia, their families, and carers.  I really do hope and believe that our partnership contribution through education is making a difference to people’s lives, and can help to support increased awareness and understanding of people living with dementia, their families, and carers.

Reflective Question:

If there is one thing you would like to learn more about related to dementia as an AHP, what would it be?

For further information

If you would like to know more about the M-level module, “Developing Rights-Based Practice for Allied Health Professionals Working With People With Dementia Their Families and Carers”, please contact Fiona Maclean, Senior Lecturer at Queen Margaret University:

Pic 2Fiona Maclean, Senior Lecturer, Queen Margaret University


I am responsible for the programme management of the MSc (Post Reg) in Occupational Therapy and I am currently undertaking a PhD exploring occupational therapist’s professional knowledge of alcohol misuse in physical health care settings.


2 thoughts on “MSc Module Exploring Rights Based Practice and Dementia

  1. Congratulations Fiona on your academic success in promoting dementia in the AHP programmes and Higher degrees. Interesting to hear about the internships.

    As someone living with dementia,as a carer,I would be very interested to know how this learning can be applied at practical level to support so many of us who go through this devastating illness without any support and have to find our own therapeutic interventions. We are well aware of our Rights but if services not available there is little we can do!

    AHPs can play a vital role in supporting people with dementia. Each syndrome is so different requiring different approaches which many carers find out by trial and error. I would like to see AHP intervention post diagnosis with early intervention and available to everyone diagnosed,throughout the trajectory of the illness.

    The benefits to the person, they can learn new skills and therapies to prepare for the period of self management or next stage in progressive Dementias.
    Access to speech and language therapy to assist communication and swallowing at later stages and possibly an accurate diagnosis with rarer Dementias.
    Physio as they stiffen up due to rarer Dementias as welll as lifting and handling rechniques in prevention of falls.
    Dietitians to keep them healthy both physically and mentally, and support with diet and oral health in the later stages.
    Chiropody, continence care,etc. etc.
    More importantly, one professional to support the carer and encourage us in our caring envirnoment. Carers need professional support to do the job well.

    The way to make an additional positive difference to people with dementia and their carers is to make access to AHPs more available. Maybe that is the next challenge for AHPs, developing partnerships for dementia care in the integrated health and social care partnerships! We need you!!

    Wish you good luck with your academic programmes and PhD.

    • Hello Myra

      Thank you for reading my blog and posting your thoughts, they are very much appreciated.
      Your point about making this practical is really key, I think, and something which has framed our thinking. The assessment for the module has been purposefully considered to encourage our AHP’s to think about and embrace rights based practice, translating this to their own practice context. Hopefully, therefore, making it as practical as possible. We also hope to inform this element of our module content by asking SDWG members what their thoughts are around this.

      In terms of AHP service delivery, I agree with you that this can be a difficult area to access. Part of our internship work has been to look specifically at what AHPs can offer, placing this opportunity for our interns in services where traditionally there has been no, or limited AHP services. By so doing, and in parallel to developing educational and research opportunities, we hope to be able to demonstrate the value of AHP services so that they can become more accessible and more widely available in time.

      I hope this provides some further context to the work we are doing, and to help inform this we are also intent on listening and understanding as much as we can. As part of this we are hoping to record thoughts around rights based practice and AHP’s from people with dementia, their families and carers through one of the internship projects over this summer. If you would like to contribute further, we would be delighted to hear from you. My e-mail is Thank you for responding to the question, best wishes, Fiona.

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