England Not Doing Enough On Dementia

‘Let’s stop tinkering around edges’, says leading expert

One of the UK’s leading dementia specialists is today urging all political parties to commit to an ambitious follow-up to the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia.

Professor Graham Stokes, Co-Chair of the Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) and Global Director of Dementia Care at Bupa, says that while there has been progress in recent years we cannot afford to be complacent: “While the country has seen a real step-change in attitudes to dementia, and awareness is greater than ever before, diagnosis rates remain stubbornly low with unacceptable regional variation. Added to that, much more can be done to provide information and support for people diagnosed. There is a need to transform dementia services and not just tinker around the edges.”

“Transformation will not be easy, however. Where care for dementia is publically funded, whoever forms the next government will have to make sure that the country is willing and able to pay for good quality, person-centred care”.

Professor Stokes will outline his vision of the future of dementia care in his speech at the DAA annual conference today. Ahead of the conference, the DAA surveyed its members on progress made since the inception of the National Dementia Strategy for England in 2009 to find out whether current activity is leading to real changes on the ground. From more than 1,000 responses, the findings include:

  • Respondents thought there has been significant progress in raising understanding and awareness of dementia, but that improved end of life care, the implementation of the Carers Strategy and improved community personal support services had made the least progress
  • Of the 164 people affected by dementia surveyed:
    • Only 41 per cent said there was a range of services that support them with aspects of daily living and enable them to stay at home and in the community
    • Just over half (54 per cent) said they lived in an enabling and supportive environment where they felt valued and understood
    • A third of people (33 per cent) said they didn’t have the knowledge and know-how to get what they need

Professor Stokes believes that transforming and broadening the range of care is crucial for the future: “People living with dementia want care that’s right for them – not a one size fits all approach – and they want to have a diagnosis and be supported after it. Many people entering a care setting are older, frailer than in the past and need more specialist and expert support provided by trained and informed staff. For example, the majority of the 18,000 people Bupa cares for in the UK live with some form of dementia, many with complex needs. This means that the care sector needs to offer people and their families care that is right for them.”

“Right from the time they develop the condition through to ongoing care and support at the end of their lives, people living with dementia have individual needs. It is essential that care – whether delivered in a residential care setting or by nurses or carers in people’s own homes – meets their expectations by encouraging independence, recognising them as individuals and offering a range of services that meets their need for both quality of care and quality of life.”

“It is vital that the next government sets ambitions and allocates resources to deliver real change for people with dementia and their carers. Fee rates paid by local authorities do not reflect the specialist and intensive nature of care needed. The Spending Review after the election needs to unlock much-needed resources and help integrate seamless care across local government and the NHS. We need a carefully planned successor to the National Strategy and the Prime Minister’s Challenge that builds on current achievements but also gets to the heart of the issues that matter to people living with dementia.”