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Government unveils new dementia care plans

A new package of care for dementia sufferers will make the UK a world leader in fighting the illness, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The health secretary has announced a number of ambitions, including faster diagnosis, more funding for research and greater help from businesses to support sufferers.

But Labour warned that the government must tackle “poor care standards” in order to combat the condition.

NHS England will invest £90m in a bid to diagnose two-thirds of people with dementia by March next year.

Leading British businesses have signed up to the cause with more than 190,000 staff at Marks & Spencer, Argos, Homebase, Lloyds Bank and Lloyds Pharmacy set to become “dementia friends”.

They will be trained to learn how to spot the signs of dementia and offer support for sufferers.

Mr Hunt said: “Dementia can be a horrific and heartbreaking disease, but it is my mission as health secretary to make this country the best place in the world to get a dementia diagnosis, as well as a global leader in the fight to find a cure.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

“Today’s package is about government, clinicians, business, society and investors coming together to raise our game on every front − from speedy diagnosis to compassionate care, and from help on our high streets to the quest for a cure.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Society there are around 800,000 people in the UK with dementia. One-in-three people aged over 65 will develop the condition, and two-thirds of sufferers are women.

NHS England will target work in areas where it can take up to 25 weeks to carry out a diagnosis.

Mr Hunt added: “To have variation in diagnosis rates from a few weeks to close to six months is totally unacceptable and I am pleased that the NHS England have agreed to address this within the funding they have available.”

He was in Paris this week to meet French dementia experts and health minister Marisol Touraine. Mr Hunt also visited a leading brain and spine institute.

“Too often we hear about a lack of suitable services available to people with dementia and their carers”

Jeremy Hughes

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It is unacceptable that some people with dementia have to wait months to get a diagnosis. Today’s announcement is a positive step forward to increasing diagnosis rates and ensuring that no matter where you live you will receive a timely assessment.

“Too often we hear about a lack of suitable services available to people with dementia and their carers. We welcome the focus on post-diagnosis support which will provide a vital lifeline to thousands who are currently left in the dark, with nowhere to turn for advice or support.”

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for care and older people, said: “Dementia is one of the greatest challenges we face as a country. The Prime Minister is right to focus on it and Labour supports the government’s commitments on research, and to ensure everyone with dementia is properly diagnosed.

“But if his words are to have real meaning, David Cameron must do far more to help people struggling to cope with dementia right now.

Liz Kendall

“£2.7bn has been cut from council care budgets under this government, hitting the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people with dementia and their families. This isn’t good for them, and is a false economy as an increasing number of elderly people with dementia are ending up in hospitals or care homes when they don’t need to.

“The Prime Minister cannot credibly claim to show leadership on dementia unless he tackles poor care standards, like the increasing number of 15-minute home visits which are barely enough time to make a cup of tea, let alone help a frail elderly person with dementia get up, washed, dressed and fed.”


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Readers' comments (12)

  • Whilst focusing on dementia is brilliant and Mr Hunt is to be congratulated on raising its profile, am I the only one who can see the danger of 'dementia friends' - however well intended - and the forthcoming headlines of 'little old dears' being accosted in shops by spotty-faced teenage quacks informing them that they are demented?

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  • i want to see specialist dementia home care services, not the ones that take on care packages for people with dementia and say their induction training over 5 days which includes all required mandatory training gives them the specialist experience to cater for this client group, this knowledge is from personal experience, family member with a diagnosis of dementia and i have a BSc in dementia studies so yes i feel i know what i am talking about. sorry but it makes me mad when the care is not right or fit for purpose. thanks

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  • About time, what other condition would have been dealt with in this way, waiting months/years for a diagnosis or not actually geeting diagnosed at all. Early diagnosis makes such a difference to the person with dementia and their families. Dementia friends is about being a more caring accepting society, after all this is something that affects us all, 1 in 3 people will have dementia. Addressing poor practice is long overdue, CQC inspections are still not picking up on this in some organisations.

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  • We need to understand more about what a 'Dementia friend' will be doing.
    I don't understand why they have to be friends with dementia people going through their places of business.
    Should customer care already be in place.

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  • tinkerbell

    “£2.7bn has been cut from council care budgets under this government''

    such hypocrisy when they are slashing services, budgets and the means to provide decent care for people in their homes.

    Don't trust the teller, trust the tale and the evidence so far that those who need help are getting less input.

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  • Michelle Harriot | 28-Feb-2014 12:48 pm

    with only one comma and one full-stop in the whole paragraph you have written, I have no idea what you are talking about!

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  • eileen shepherd

    Nursing Times staff have had dementia friend training. It has potential to raise awareness and increase the publics understanding of this condition. I think it is important that people in service industries are aware of dementia and can recognise when someone might have a problem.

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  • so I supposed, as one of the silver haired brigade, when I return occasionally to the UK and fumble with my change in a supermarket queue I would have one of these "helpful friends" pounce on me and pronounce I was demented?

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  • comment above:

    should start out 'so I suppose ...'

    a bad sign?

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  • I would like to see them re introduce home helps who specialise in Dementia care. We seem to have lost them in our area. It was a fantastic service they provided longer calls and as much as possible the same person did the visits as much as possible. Also do we really expect some of these patients to allow strangers in their houses on discharge. No longer do I see the Community services teams having time to come to the hospital and meet the patients before discharge so a familiar face arrives at their door. Dementia care is not complicated it is the simple thought out things that make a difference. I just hope the people who decide how this money is spent and do the training have had years of first hand experience of working with people with dementia.
    I agree whole heartedly with the above persons comment about judging who has dementia in the shops. On a bad day I often get out my wrong bank card, or wander around the shop aimlessly for ages, looking completely lost trying to find things because the shop has altered or moved their display!!! Wonder if they will label me with dementia!!!!!

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  • eileen shepherd | 1-Mar-2014 10:43 am

    it is even more important that all medical and nursing and other staff involved with the public and patients have awareness and knowledge of how to look after patients with dementia.

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  • Pure hypocrisy on Hunt's part. His government has cut services for people with dementia to the bone, and he has the cheek to trumpet how much he is doing for people with dementia! What is the point of early diagnosis if there is no support available when you need it?

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