A person with dementia and their carer

NHS 70: Dementia care then and now

The National Health Service is 70 years old today. Hear from our CEO, Jeremy Hughes, about the successes of our health and care services, and how things could improve for people affected by dementia.

As the NHS turns 70, of course we must celebrate the progress made and all the support on offer. But we must also acknowledge what’s missing.

Times have changed, needs have changed, and we have to make sure our health and care services are equipped for the challenge of our ageing society.

The powers that be are not being realistic. They don’t recognise people’s needs and the true cost of care." – Penny, nursing home owner

Dementia in the UK today

More and more people are living with dementia – 850,000 in the UK today, expected to reach 1 million by 2021 – and too many are doing it alone.

Diagnosis rates are rising but the postcode lottery persists. Everyone with dementia has a right to know they have it. Yet a third still don’t get a diagnosis, so they can’t access advice and support or make plans for the future.

We’ve come a long way from the days of anti-psychotic drugs and asylums, but there is still much more to be done.

Our overstretched NHS

When the NHS and the National Assistance Act were born in 1948, the system was meant to treat everyone equally. No-one meant for it to support people with some health conditions and leave others out in the cold – but for people with dementia, that is what’s happened.

As well as NHS support, they rely on social care, because there are no drugs to cure or effectively treat the disease. The NHS is currently burning through up to £400m a year on avoidable hospital stays for people with dementia, which better social care could prevent.

On top of that, people with dementia are getting stuck in hospital when they’re well enough to leave because there is no support for them outside, costing another £170m a year. This is all piling pressure on our already overstretched NHS. It shouldn’t and needn’t be like this.

The success of dementia initiatives

NHS and Alzheimer's Society staff side by side in Bristol

Staff from NHS and Alzheimer’s Society work side by side with people affected by dementia at our Dementia Wellbeing service in Bristol.

In Bristol, there's a Dementia Wellbeing Service where NHS and Alzheimer’s Society staff work side by side. They provide lifelong support that has transformed the care on offer and driven up diagnosis rates.

Dementia United initiatives across Greater Manchester have seen places such as Stockport provide training. NHS staff, from doctors to delivery drivers, are trained so that people with dementia get better support in the community.

Our new Dementia Connect service is already giving families in Lancashire, Birmingham and Solihull more joined-up care. It is bringing GPs together with our expert Dementia Advisers and dedicated volunteers.

Projects like Care4Bolton and Stafford’s Acute Visiting Service spare people with dementia the stress of a hospital stay. They save the NHS money by treating urgent but not life-threatening issues at home.

Why are these brilliant initiatives not in place everywhere? We know staff on the frontline work tirelessly and provide great care, but too often this is despite the system rather than because of it.

The gift of funding

The £20 billion a year ‘birthday present’ for the NHS is desperately needed. But without putting money into social care, it’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Just a fraction of that funding would be able to join up the system. Meanwhile it would create a Dementia Care Fund to level the playing field. It would stop people with dementia having to pay for support while those with other diseases get it for free.

It’s simply unacceptable that families affected by dementia typically spend £100k of their own money on essential care that people with other diseases can get on the NHS.

Health and social care, side by side

We’re all immensely proud of our NHS, but too often social care is treated like its poor relation. Both sides of the system are 70 and both deserve investment and attention.

Would you throw a birthday party for one twin and not invite the other? We need urgent action and bold reform to overhaul the entire system. Then, it can deliver high quality care at a fair price for everyone who needs it.

Together we can fix dementia care
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Hello Henry, thanks for getting in touch. We fully understand your frustration and are as desperate as you to see new and better treatments for dementia.

We know that research can be a long process. But the best quality research is the only way to beat dementia. Every day we are learning more about the condition, which is vital to identifying how we can tackle it.

It’s essential that we study drugs that are already available. Drug repurposing could reduce the cost and amount of time until we have a drug that can slow down or even stop the progression of dementia. Whilst drug repurposing is key, we know that dementia is incredibly complex and it’s vital to find other, new drugs that have potential. We are working in both of these areas.

As we don’t know exactly when the day will come that we can stop dementia in its tracks, we must use research to also improve the care people affected by dementia receive at the moment.

Research can give everyone affected by dementia hope for the future. You can read more about our research and the progress we have made so far. If you have any questions about our research, contact us at [email protected]

All the best, Henry.

Congratulations on completion 70 years of service to the persons with dementia.

Thank you for highlighting the fact that Social Care Services are inadequate in our Country to look after all those in need. However Dementia is a "Primary Health Need" so NHS should be obliged to provide all the necessary funding for private care in the comfort of your own Home, or a Nursing Home charges if required in the future. The only requirement is an Assessment to ensure the overall medical needs are complex , which they will be if you can not manage everything on your own.

The difficulty is getting an Assessment & a fair result. No one would admit that NHS ration care services to the public, but it feels like they do if you are turned down. Preparation for Assessment Meetings is essential, & to assist people I launched a website following the death of my Wife Pauline.

A hospital bed costs around £850 per day , but care at home 24/7 can cost around £1000 per week. It does not require much thought by NHS to see how savings can be made to reduce bed blocking & provide people with care in their homes! All that is required is responsible Family members who Care & can administer the "Personal Budget" efficiently.

Further advice is on my website at https://continuinghealthcare.wordpress.com/

Best wishes. Peter Garside

Government will soon realise the increasing problem with Alzheimers and other deteriorating brain dislrders and lack of a rethinking and reorganisation regime will get considerably worse over the next years. Also the lack of a possible treatment and cure is so far away seemingly.

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