I will make Britain dementia-friendly, says Health Secretary

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.
Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.
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HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants Britain to win the global race to find the cure for dementia.

Ambitious new plans unveiled by the Government include health checks for those aged 40 and above to identify early symptoms, as well as new Ofsted style ratings for regional diagnosis rates.

New statistics show Yorkshire’s Clinical Commissioning Groups are making good progress in meeting dementia diagnosis targets, however there is still work to do on improving rates in the Vale of York; the East Riding of Yorkshire; Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby and Scarborough and Ryedale.

Mr Hunt said: “The global race to find a cure for dementia is on, and I want the UK to win it.”

Around 850,000 people across the UK have dementia. While the country has gone from a dementia diagnosis rate of 42% in 2012 to 66% in 2016, the Government is still keen to narrow regional disparity in assessing patients.

Through their new Dementia Plan, which is published today, they promise to boost diagnosis rates, raise awareness and encourage more research.

Mr Hunt said: “A dementia diagnosis can bring fear and heartache, but I want Britain to be the best place in the world to live well with dementia.

“ Last Parliament we made massive strides on diagnosis rates and research – the global race is now on to find a cure for dementia and I want the UK to win it.

“This Parliament I want us to make big progress on the quality of care and treatment.

“Hospitals can be frightening and confusing places for people with dementia, so our new plan will guarantee them safer seven day hospital care, as well as tackling unacceptable variations in quality across England through transparent Ofsted style ratings.”

In the future people from aged 40 will be tested for dementia in pilot areas with support from the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. This is down from the usual age of 65, and if successful it could become national policy to test people earlier on in life.

The Government also believes the roll-out of seven day NHS services, which has caused so much unrest among junior doctors regarding their contract changes, will particularly benefit dementia patients so they don’t stay in hospital longer than necessary.

A seven day system could also see those with dementia reviewed by a consultant on a ward round once a day every day of the week by 2020, Mr Hunt claims.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We applaud the Government’s firm commitment to make the UK the most dementia friendly place in the world.

“Until recently, people with dementia were effectively cast out from society, but the tide is now turning.”

However he added many people with dementia face stigma and ‘a health and care system that simply does not work for them’ that results in emergency hospital admissions, extended stays and desperate loneliness.

There is also concern from Labour about Conservative cuts to adult social care provision, which is where the majority of dementia patients draw support.

Local authorities are now able to raise a 2% precept on council tax to fund adult social care if they chose.

Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Older People, Social Care, and Carers, responding to the publication of the Department of Health’s dementia plan, said: “You cannot address the crisis in dementia care without tackling the crisis in social care.

“Since 2010, £4.5 billion has been taken out of adult social care budgets and the Tories’ plan to fund social care through the 2% council tax precept has already been found to be completely inadequate.

“Many people living with dementia have had their home care cut. They have to rely on 15 minute care visits where there is barely enough time to make a cup of tea, let alone provide the care that people living with dementia need to remain independent.

“Ministers need to start being honest about the crisis in social care and set out how they intend to repair the damage they have done.”

The Department for Health say there is £3.5bn to spend to be spent on social care this Parliament from the money raised through the precept and the Better Care Fund.

Dementia diagnosis rates have been reached in Harrogate and the Rural District CCG,

Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG and the rest of Yorkshire, and are higher than the national average in Leeds.