Awaiting a 10-year dementia plan for England

Dementia doesn’t wait for ‘due course’ – Nigel Hullah says people living with dementia deserve better.

In May 2022, Sajid Javid – the then health secretary – pledged to deliver a new 10-year plan to tackle dementia at Alzheimer’s Society’s annual conference.

Many of us were there to hear and applaud this. 

The publication of this dementia strategy was promised by the end of that year, with the Department of Health and Social Care saying it would focus on harnessing new medicines and emerging science and technology. 

We became very optimistic that proposals were also promised on how to support people with their specific health and care needs while living with dementia.

Nigel Hullah

Nigel is Chair of the 3 Nations Dementia Working Group and a member of the European Working Group of People with Dementia

Delay and change 

In January this year – two health secretaries later – the Society said it had been given the same non-committal answer a staggering 26 times when making inquiries about the strategy’s progress.

They were told the 10-year plan would come ‘in due course’. 

This plan would be crucial in getting health and social care ‘system-ready’, so that breakthrough treatments can be made available in the UK as soon as possible. 

Later in January, the current health secretary Steve Barclay announced a Major Conditions Strategy instead. 

He detailed to the House of Commons how this would set out a ‘strong and coherent policy agenda’ that indicates a ‘shift to integrated, whole-person care,’ further developing the NHS Long Term Plan. 

Kate Lee, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society, responded, ‘Just last week we delivered to Downing Street an open letter signed by thousands of campaigners calling for delivery of the promised 10-year plan for dementia. They expect and deserve urgent action.

It’s encouraging to see that the government recognises dementia as one of the biggest health and care challenges of our time, but we don’t want action on the distinct challenges of dementia to be lost within a broad strategy covering so many other serious health conditions.

‘We need a bold, ambitious plan for dementia and it remains to be seen whether this is the route for that to happen.’ 

Still opportunity 

Although disappointing that the promised dementia strategy was not delivered, there still remains an opportunity to have input into the Major Conditions Strategy.

However, it’s worth noting that England is the only UK nation that doesn’t have a specific dementia plan with dedicated funding. 

People affected by dementia deserve better than this.

The government should seize the hope and opportunity that research advancements have presented, instead of stalling on a life-changing plan for the 900,000 people with dementia in the UK. 

Dementia can’t and won’t wait. It must be treated as a unique issue, and not folded into other conditions such as mental health. 

As you can’t improve dementia care without a radical overhaul of social care, maybe that’s the reason for the delay – a decision made purely on cost?

If so, that would be shameful and not a little dishonest.

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Dementia together magazine

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now