Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that £50m is to be invested in improvements for dementia care.
Describing it as one of the “biggest threats” to society, Mr Hunt said the money would be available for trusts and councils to spend on specially designed wards and care homes - incorporating beneficial calming surroundings to avoid confusion - for people living with dementia.
The money will also go towards innovations such as hi-tech sensory rooms to stimulate dementia patients or large print photos of local scenes from history to help people feel connected to their past.
The announcement has been welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter. But he said the move should only be “the tip of the iceberg”.
He echoed Mr Hunt’s description of the challenge dementia poses to society, adding that the RCN wanted the care for patients to get the attention it “urgently needs”.
Dr Carter said staff should be able to spend more time working with and understanding the needs of patients, with wards sufficiently staffed by nurses trained to deal with dementia.
He added: “This care needs to extend beyond the hospital, giving families of patients a network of support that they can reach out to when they need it and to enable people to be cared for in the community.”
Meanwhile, Dementia UK’s chief executive officer, Barbara Stephens, described the fund as a “positive move” which would improve care environments by helping to reduce the confusion, distress and sensory difficulties experienced by patients.
She said: “Moving a loved one into a care home can be a difficult decision and our Admiral Nurses within residential and nursing care are working to ensure that these environments are conducive to improving quality of life for residents and their families.”
But she added that with about 25% of hospital beds and two-thirds of those in care homes occupied by people with dementia, a commitment was needed from the government to raise the number of specialist care professionals.