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New Deal For Dementia Care

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Care for people with dementia will be transformed with the appointment of dementia advisers, better training for GP's and the establishment of memory services staffed by specialists to provide early diagnosis and treatment, Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced today.

The first National Dementia Strategy, backed by ?150 million over the first two years, will increase awareness of dementia, ensure early diagnosis and intervention and radically improve the quality of care that people with the condition receive.

The strategy calls for specialist memory services to be established throughout the country. These will allow people with dementia to have their diagnosis made accurately and early in the course of the illness as well as get access to treatment and intervention that can help them live well with the condition.

Other initiatives recommended in the strategy to help the 570,000 people with dementia in England, their carers and families include:

* GPs trained to recognise the early symptoms of dementia;

* memory services throughout the country staffed by specialists to provide early diagnosis and treatment;

* a senior member of staff to be identified in general hospitals and care homes who will be charged with providing leadership to improve the quality of care for people with dementia;

* the appointment of dementia advisers, who will act as a guide to help people with dementia and their families navigate the care and support system throughout their illness. Their role will be piloted in the first year of the strategy;

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* wider provision of older people's community mental health teams to asses patients in care homes and to help minimise the use of anti-psychotic medication;

* better education and training for professionals;

* better evidence on research needs on the causes of and treatment for dementia;

* better information for people with dementia, their carers and families after diagnosis; and

* improved public awareness to help remove the stigma attached to dementia.

The strategy is recognition that the number of people with dementia will double over the next thirty years and the cost of care and treatment is likely to triple. Currently direct costs of dementia to the NHS are approximately ?3.3 billion per year.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "In an ageing society, caring for people with dementia is one of the most important challenges we face. I know that for many people, diagnosis can be difficult, care can be patchy and without adequate support, families can be under huge stress. All that must change.

"The creation of a new role of dementia advisor will be crucial in making sure people and families get the help they need. I also want to see GPs trained to recognise the early symptoms of dementia and be able to refer people with dementia to specialists who can give an effective diagnosis. This will allow people with dementia to get the care and treatment they need and remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. We owe them, their carers and their families nothing less."

Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Society Neil Hunt said: "Today's announcement sets out an ambitious national rescue plan to transform the lives of people living with dementia. One million people will develop dementia in the next ten years. This is a momentous opportunity to avert a dementia crisis that could overwhelm the NHS and social care.

"There is so much to do. Only a third of people with dementia get a formal diagnosis, denying them vital support. It is essential the strong leadership from the Department of Health continues so that these plans become a reality. Change won't happen overnight, but the Alzheimer's Society will be working tirelessly to bring dementia out of the shadows."