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House of Memories Programme

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2013

It is a pleasure, Mr Gray, to serve under your chairmanship, and to have the opportunity to discuss such an important issue so soon after the debate of the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow) before the recess, although on that occasion it was discussed in a wider context. I want to explain why I chose to apply for a debate so soon after several debates about mental health conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, in the main Chamber, which rightly highlighted the effects of such diseases and their impact on patients, families, carers, social services and the NHS. A benefit of parliamentarians debating such issues is that it helps practitioners in their determination to debunk the myths of Alzheimer’s and all forms of mental health conditions, and to alleviate their stigma. I make no apology for bringing the topic to the House’s attention again.

Colleagues will be aware that tremendous progress has been made in treatment to combat dementia-type illnesses with both clinical and non-pharmaceutical interventions that help to care for the condition or slow its onset. I want to use the time available not to rehearse what has been said about that previously, but to develop some of the details relating to an initiative that I first brought to the House’s attention during my contribution to a debate on 10 January 2012.

The innovative approach I mentioned then was the House of Memories project in Liverpool. There was interest from right hon. and hon. Members when I explained the benefits of that approach, and the project has merits that could easily be rolled out throughout the country. The best thing—the Minister will be pleased to know this—is that it would not cost the earth. Instead, it would undoubtedly save the NHS millions of pounds in the long term. I will give a brief overview of the project before coming to the crux of why I was so keen for the Minister to come to the Chamber today.

National Museums Liverpool has developed a sustainable partnership with care providers through a connection to local histories, objects and archives at the world-class Museum of Liverpool. The House of Memories project is described by experts as a

“tailored dementia…training programme, which uses artistic interpretation, curatorship,”

museum education

“and reminiscence therapy techniques to raise awareness of the condition, and enable professional health services, carers and families to help those directly affected live well with dementia.”

The project demonstrates how a museum or, by association, a library, arts centre or theatre can provide the health and social care sector with practical skills and knowledge to facilitate access to an untapped cultural resource simply by using their local treasures and art work. Such work is vital when considering that mental health issues in elderly people will not go away. In 2010, more than 700,000 people living in England were diagnosed with progressive symptoms, including loss of memory, mood changes and problems with communication and reasoning. Such symptoms occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s, and by damage caused by a series of transient ischaemic attacks, or mini-strokes as they are known. A staggering 21 million people in the UK are estimated to know someone with dementia, and one in three people aged over 65 will have dementia by the time they reach the end of their life. More than 86,000 people in the north-west alone are currently diagnosed with the condition.

National Museums Liverpool has recognised that museums are experts at recording and caring for people’s memories and treasures, whether they are thousands of years old or within living memory. A net result of the project has been the way in which the House of Memories project has encouraged the medical profession to consider new approaches and alternatives to established practices and therapies. We know that health care and medicine are evolving, but in Liverpool we have found that some of the components to assist patients’ well-being have been under our nose all along.

Developing new strategies is not easy, and the first phase of the project, which was funded by the Department of Health in 2011, was designed in consultation with Skills for Care, the Alzheimer’s Society and the local voluntary sector. Together, the partners informed a real-world training experience to connect the care sector with National Museums Liverpool’s cultural resources. The House of Memories project has not only achieved a high level of attendance from across the wider health sector but sustained that engagement.

The outgoing Liverpool primary care trust identified that the project met and exceeded the need to make Liverpool a city that supports greater health and well-being for all residents. More recently, Liverpool city council has recognised the project as a key driver of its age-friendly city ambition, and the Department of Health has expressed interest in expanding the project across southern regions. That demonstrates the thoroughness of the model. Not only have National Museums Liverpool’s staff dedicated much time and energy to ensuring that the health and social care side of the model is catered for, but it has a strong business model that stands as a leading example for other cities and towns to follow on a larger or smaller scale to suit their needs.

The current project was delivered in the Liverpool city region, Manchester and the north-east, including Newcastle and Sunderland. To date, more than 3,000 health and social care professionals have participated, and I see no reason why Parliament should not give a commitment today to an ambitious target for the number of health and social care professionals exposed to this leading training to increase exponentially in the next few years. I would welcome an opportunity to work with the Minister to facilitate that eventuality.

External evaluation of the House of Memories project makes impressive reading, and the feedback is available for hon. Members to view on its website. If the Minister has not had an opportunity to read it, it would be good if he did so. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and noted that the project increased awareness and understanding of dementia, and helped participants better to understand those living with the condition in a way conventional training has not been able to do to date.

I hope that I have demonstrated that in Liverpool we have begun the process of changing the culture of how we view those living with dementia, but there is more to do, and it is vital that the Minister recognises the economic impact that such projects have on NHS finances. Early intervention and targeted treatment that uses local resources have the potential to save the NHS millions of pounds. Instead of dealing with the condition in its latter stages, which is not only expensive but heartbreaking for patients and carers, we should ensure that any prevention or delay in its development is made a priority, and that those left to treat the condition are afforded appropriate training to deal better with its effects.

The British museum sector holds great collections of arts, artefacts and archives, as we would expect, but people would perhaps not normally associate it with playing an important role in the dementia arena—that is, until now, hopefully. There are other models to study: for instance, the Museum of Modern Art in New York runs an internationally acknowledged programme, where gallery staff engage with individuals living with dementia and their partners and families in conversations about modern art. However, the House of Memories project is qualitatively different from MOMA’s programme. It provides guidance for engaging people living with dementia and their carers in the museum experience, supporting that with a toolkit and resources such as a memory box.

One of the great success stories has been National Museums Liverpool’s ability to position House of Memories as a credible and important tool for dementia awareness, as its greatest challenge was to gain acceptance and support from the health sector by developing a learning tool that would be accessible, both creatively and intellectually, while acknowledging the real-world challenge of supporting people to live well with dementia. No one can be in any doubt that NML has been totally successful in achieving that ambitious recognition. One way that I and my fellow Merseyside MPs can ensure that the partnership keeps making progress is by continuing to raise awareness and by ensuring that the relevant Minister is constantly updated with the continued success of the House of Memories’ innovative work. I will, of course, ensure that I do so.

I am pleased to report that the project continues to receive a positive regional response and has secured additional health sector funding until 2015, which will include the development of an online digital tool for carers and families. I urge the Minister to outline what further support he can offer to the development of that capability. I am sure that Members of all parties will recognise and appreciate the innovative work of the staff at the Museum of Liverpool, and I should like to take the opportunity to praise each and every one of them. It should be noted that the Museum has also recorded an increase in visits from care home staff and patients. Cultural partners, such as Riverside housing, have taken inspiration from the training by developing personalised, culturally sensitive memory boxes for the Chinese and Afro-Caribbean communities, which exemplifies the social value of greater dementia awareness for the whole of Merseyside.

We are not talking about brain surgery; the concept is simple. I went to the museum to look at one of the sessions, and because it was in Liverpool, a lot of people were interested in football, of course, and music and comedy. The memory box, therefore, has such things as football programmes from Liverpool or Everton football clubs, ration books, some old tunes and records, and old theatre programmes, and those stimulate conversation with people. The long-term memory of most sufferers is very good. Short-term recollection is a problem for many, but those props really get people into conversations and act as a prompt for all sorts of detailed discussions, and—it must be said—for friendly banter from people who find it very difficult at times just to have an ordinary conversation. Liverpool’s aim is to make the project fully available across the constituencies of right hon. and hon. Members.

National Museums Liverpool would like to work in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health to lead the development of a house of memories resource in every town and city across the United Kingdom. That would create an opportunity for greater co-operation between Whitehall Departments and it would provide continued cultural innovation for health and social care, hospital and social housing settings. That is vital when we consider that all Departments and partners have been widely encouraged to support the Prime Minister’s national dementia challenge.

I ask the Minister to allow the professionals with a track record of success in Liverpool to help him implement similar projects across the country. Given the positive response from the health sector, I believe that if the Minister commits today to sustaining the ongoing work further with logistical support and funding, National Museums Liverpool will deliver significant outcomes and opportunities for a sustainable cultural and health sector partnership in communities across Britain. I do not doubt that in other parts of the country, the cultural sector is making strides towards improving the relationship between the arts and dementia treatment. However, I have yet to see a more comprehensive project, with a greater level of success, than Liverpool’s House of Memories. In other words, NML has set the national standard, and it has set the bar very high.

I wish to conclude by asking the Minister the following questions, which I would be grateful if he could address either in the time we have left today, or, for those that he cannot, in writing afterwards. Will he inform Members what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport over the potential long-term economic benefits of supporting the House of Memories? If he is yet to have those discussions, will he commit to doing so this side of the spending review? Will he indicate whether his Department will support the House of Memories project further in 2013-14 and onwards? Will he meet Dr David Fleming, the director of National Museums Liverpool, and me at the Museum of Liverpool to discuss the work that we are doing on Merseyside, and to witness first-hand the positive impact that it is having on dementia patients in our city?

I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) on securing the debate. I remember his speech in the Chamber during the debate he referred to earlier. He talked passionately about the House of Memories initiative in Liverpool, and I think I am right in saying that he also spoke about his mother’s battle with dementia, so I know he cares a lot about this issue. I am keen to work with him and to talk to him further about how we can maximise the benefits of such an approach.

I should also refer to another institution in Liverpool—Everton football club. I am not sure where his loyalties lie in that great city, but Everton have done great work on reminiscences and dementia. I have had people from Everton come to the Department, together with other representatives of football and sport. The hon. Gentleman talked about long-term memory and the power of reminiscence, and sporting memories can be incredibly valuable in bringing people back who are suffering from dementia. I am absolutely with him on that.

I thank the Minister for giving way, and for mentioning Everton football club and the Everton in the Community project. During my visit to the museum, Everton were represented, and they had their football reminiscence material there. It does exactly what the Minister has outlined, and stimulates conversation like nothing else because of people’s memories of great moments in their lives. Some of those will obviously be sporting-related, and that could be part of what the House of Memories project is about.

I am grateful for that intervention. I have been asked to give my own footballing memory, and it is Jeremy Goss scoring a fantastic goal away at Bayern Munich. Norwich City were for a long time the only club that had beaten Bayern Munich away. I am looking to see whether we can extend the work of Everton to other premier league and football league clubs, because they have a powerful position in their communities and can be opinion leaders in developing these ideas powerfully in their communities.

I am wholly supportive of the House of Memories. It is an exceptional project that has been funded in part, as the hon. Gentleman said, by the Department of Health; more than £220,000 has been allocated during the last two years. As we have heard today, National Museums Liverpool provides an innovative training programme that is making a real difference for social care staff by helping them to connect with the people with dementia whom they support every day. They use the objects that the hon. Gentleman referred to and the stories linked to the museums’ collections. Museums across the country have a rich collection of objects and art that can be so powerful in helping people to live well with dementia. It is a very powerful partnership with care providers. I think the hon. Gentleman said that 3,000 care workers had already participated. That demonstrates the reach of this project. It is fantastic that the cultural sector is involved in work on dementia; it is a great collaboration. Getting the medical profession to consider new and different approaches beyond pure medicine can be very powerful. The work to which I have referred is critically important in supporting our drive to create more dementia-friendly communities.

The hon. Gentleman is right about the value of early intervention and the savings that can be secured for the NHS in this way. My understanding is that the money from the Department of Health has already helped to roll out this approach to museums across the north of England. There is a funding application in at the moment for 2013-14. That is being considered by the dementia work force advisory group. It could extend the roll-out to museums and galleries in the midlands. I think the decision on that will be communicated to National Museums Liverpool over the summer. Obviously, I cannot pre-empt the outcome of that application, but clearly, as I have said, I am wholly supportive of this project and keen to work closely with the people involved to develop this initiative and concept further.

There are 670,000 people in England with dementia. That number is increasing year on year, as is the £19 billion cost to society of dementia. Faced with that, the Prime Minister launched in March last year the challenge to which the hon. Gentleman referred, which builds on the dementia strategy the Labour Government initiated in, I think, 2009. It is a powerful and good initiative and was one of the first globally to be developed. This condition is the biggest fear for people over the age of 55—as someone who has just turned 55, I am acutely aware of that.

A year on from the launch of the Prime Minister’s challenge, dementia remains a priority for the coalition Government, for their partners in health and care and for me personally. The House of Memories was I believe referred to in the updated report on the Prime Minister’s challenge last November, so its effect has been recognised. In the first year, we have achieved a lot, not only laying the foundations for delivery but making progress across all three areas of the challenge: first, improving health and care services for people with dementia; secondly, creating more dementia-friendly communities, where this work can play such a valuable role; and thirdly, the importance of research and committing more resources to research into finding cures and prevention mechanisms for dementia. That is creating a momentum that will lead to real improvements in the lives of people with dementia and their carers.

For the first time, there is a quantified ambition to increase the diagnosis rate for dementia from the current 45%, which is far too low. Our aim is that by 2015 two thirds of people with dementia should have a diagnosis, with appropriate post-diagnosis support. We are also seeing real action on the creation of dementia-friendly communities, with 50 areas expressing an interest in becoming dementia friendly. An awful lot is going on in Liverpool, and I do not know whether the city as a whole is exploring that, but clearly there is good leadership in that city.

The launch of the Dementia Friends initiative has already captured the imagination of thousands of people, and the number of people attending the awareness sessions is growing every week. I participated in a session in Warwick in April, so I have become a dementia friend—I have the badge to show it. If the hon. Gentleman has not done that yet, I encourage him to do so and, indeed, I encourage others to take up that challenge locally.

The UK will use its presidency of the G8 to identify and agree a new international approach on dementia research. A specific G8 dementia summit will be held in London in the autumn. It will bring together Health and Science Ministers alongside world-leading experts, senior industry figures and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The event will look to secure more co-ordination and collaboration on dementia globally. I suspect that initiatives such as the one from Liverpool could play a part internationally, through this G8 process, in teaching other countries about what could be learned from them.

A skilled work force is vital to delivering compassionate care for people with dementia. That is why we are taking forward work to ensure that we have front-line staff who are capable and competent in dementia care. The Department of Health and NHS England are working closely with Health Education England to put in place a forward work programme for the delivery of the work on dementia set out in their mandate. That includes ensuring that 100,000 NHS staff have undertaken foundation-level training on dementia by March 2014, so that they can better support people with the condition. A new e-learning package has been published that will lead to 100,000 nurses and health care assistants receiving dementia training via e-learning by 2015.

In March, the Department launched a new nursing vision and strategy for dementia care that sets out what is expected of all nurses in order to meet the level and quality of care expected in all settings. In social care, the dementia pledge builds on the care and support compact by supporting social care employers to develop their work force’s understanding of dementia and to adapt their services to meet the needs of people with dementia. More than 900 care providers have already signed up to the pledge and almost 150 to the compact.

The hon. Gentleman asked one or two questions at the end of his contribution. In the spending review discussions, the focus on and the priority that the Government give to dementia will remain central to our thoughts in ensuring sufficient funding to maintain the momentum we are starting to build. As I said, in this Parliament we are building on the last Government’s strategy through the Prime Minister’s challenge.

I confirm again my absolute support for the House of Memories initiative. I want to maintain the liaison and collaboration that has been developed in the last year or so. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the possibility of meeting in Liverpool, which I would love to do if time allows. My diary is a complete nightmare, but if it is possible I will be very happy to do that. I certainly want to do all I can to ensure that the valuable lessons learned from this exciting and imaginative initiative, bringing together two sectors, are learned elsewhere, so that people with dementia really benefit from it.

Sitting suspended.