Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Anne Milton.)
Dementia services need to be addressed now. According to the Office for National Statistics, by 2030 the number of people entitled to draw a pension will be 15.6 million, of whom more than 3 million will be over 85. Society has done much to prolong lives through a focus on helping ageing bodies and faulty organs, but for too long help for the brain has not kept pace with that for the rest of the body.
With an ageing population, it is no surprise to hear the worrying prediction that 1 million people will be living with dementia by 2021, up from 800,000 today. There is obviously a massive financial worry resulting from the figures, especially when dementia is already predicted to cost the UK economy £23 billion a year, which is more than cancer, heart disease or stroke. It is therefore crucial to have plans in place that are proven to deal effectively and compassionately with dementia and that can be improved and expanded as necessary over the next 10 years.
Aside from the economic argument, the more pressing issue for me is that of compassion, care and support. When my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia 25 years ago, little support or information was available for carers. Being painfully aware that the last two years of her life were spent with little memory or recognition of family members, I now wish that she could have received an earlier diagnosis, so that we could have found professional help much earlier.
To put the problem that we face in context, I will give some statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society, which has been hugely supportive during my preparation for this debate and has worked to raise awareness of these issues in Parliament and throughout the country. One in three people over 65 will die with dementia. Two thirds of care home residents have some form of dementia. There are 600,000 family carers of people with dementia. It is estimated that a quarter of hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia. The most poignant statistic for me when I was preparing for this debate was that dementia is now the most feared health condition among people aged over 55.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate on such an important issue. As we know from previous debates, this issue is close to the hearts of many people in this Chamber who have first-hand experience of dementia. Given what he has said about people living longer, which is to be welcomed by everyone, does he agree that one of the most important things that we can do is to ensure that there is better co-ordination in the research into the prevention of dementia? The issue of treatment is secondary. Preventing people from getting dementia is surely the most important thing that we can do.
I am grateful for the comments that the hon. Gentleman has made. He is right that we must not only treat the illness, but consider what preventive work can be done. I will speak later about the need for the national strategy to focus not only on the treatment of people with dementia, but on what other research can be done.
It is obvious that dementia is on the radar of an ageing society. However, given the emotional toll of dementia and its prevalence at the end of life, I was horrified to hear that only 48% of people who live with dementia receive a formal diagnosis, meaning that many people are denied the care and support that they and their loved ones need. Before the national dementia strategy for England was introduced in 2009, the rate was 33%. If further proof were needed that dementia care and services need to be improved as soon as possible, those awful diagnosis rates should be enough to show that something needs to change.
I am proud to be part of a coalition Government who have shone a long-overdue light on dementia, not least through the Prime Minister’s decision to host the G8 summit on dementia last month. However, there is still much to do before we can be confident that everyone who is living with dementia—individuals and families—is able to have a fulfilled life.
It is good that my hon. Friend has secured this debate. It is not only the people who are suffering from dementia who are badly affected, but those who are looking after them. We must therefore not only get the diagnosis right for those who are suffering from dementia, but ensure that there is respite care for those who are looking after them. They need a break in order to fulfil their caring role properly.
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. I am sure that everybody has experiences of their own, but perhaps it will help the House if I speak about my grandmother, as I did earlier. I was aged about 12 or 13 at the time of her diagnosis, and my sister was two years younger. My dad was working as a teacher and supporting me, my mum and our family, but he was also dealing with his own mother. I remember the toll that that took on him. He had to work out what was the best thing to do for his mother. He toiled over the decisions that he had to make for a long time, such as selling the family home in which he had been born and brought up in order to raise money for the care home. My hon. Friend is right that there is a massive toll on the families involved, as well as on the people who have this terrible disease.
Despite the focus on dementia, there is a danger that the momentum that has been created by the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia, the G8 summit and the work of the Science and Technology Committee and the all-party parliamentary group on dementia will be lost if the Government do not act in a number of areas.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter to the House for consideration. Every one of us will have knowledge of this matter personally and from our position as elected representatives. One of the homes in my area has 23 residents and 20 of them have dementia. The magnitude of the problem is tremendous. Does he agree that an exchange of medical information would be helpful? Northern Ireland has the highest diagnosis level in the United Kingdom. Perhaps it is time to exchange the knowledge in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England to come up with a strategy for the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure the Minister heard his comments and will perhaps reflect on them when he sums up the debate.
I was talking about a number of areas. First, to continue making improvements along the current trajectory, it is crucial that the national dementia strategy for England is updated from the 2009 version. That strategy identified 17 key objectives for the NHS and social services aimed at improving the commissioning of dementia services, the quality of care delivered in hospitals and care homes, developing a clear picture of research and evidence needs, and providing support for carers. Will the Minister please outline what meetings have taken place about the effectiveness of the NDSE, and say what plans he has for a formal evaluation of it?
Secondly, in spite of the obvious benefits of the national strategy, so far the Government have made no plans to renew it. I welcome the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia, which is ambitious in its plans and places a welcome political spotlight on the issue. However, that challenge alone does not provide the breadth of detail needed to guide health and social care services to make improvements, and neither does it carry enough accountability measures, which a national strategy would do.
A new national dementia strategy, with guidance for commissioners of health and social care, GPs, hospital trusts, care homes, and others, must be published before the current strategy expires in April this year. It does not seem to be a new trend of coalition Government not to renew national strategies, because in 2011, new national strategies for cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were published, and one for hearing loss is due.
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman who is making an eloquent and powerful case. His point about the strategy is fundamental. We have a system of different clinical commissioning groups, and a lot of fragmentation, and we need a holistic strategy that brings together the national effort. All credit to the Government for pursuing the issue, but I echo what the hon. Gentleman is saying about the need to renew the national strategy to maintain that momentum and energy, and ensure we get good services across the country. Will he join us all in continuing to press the Minister for renewal of the strategy?
I am most grateful to the right hon. Lady, and I congratulate her on the work she does with the all-party group on dementia. She and all hon. Members will recognise that on this subject the whole House is fairly united in trying to get the Government to make those changes, regardless of whether we sit on the Government or Opposition Benches.
Our international partners, many of which attended the G8 summit in December, have ambitious long-term plans. In the US, for example, President Obama published a dementia strategy that runs until 2025, well beyond his own term as President. France has recently published its fourth dementia strategy. The economic case for having a clear directive for dementia is overwhelming. Dementia costs the UK £23 billion a year, which is more than cancer, stroke or heart disease, yet the annual research spend into dementia is about £51 million, rising to £66 million in 2015. That compares with £521 million spent on cancer.
The ambition announced at the recent G8 summit to double the spend on research in the UK by 2025 is an excellent step forward, but a new national dementia strategy that covers all aspects of dementia, including research into prevention and finding a cure, will ensure that the momentum gained from the good work undertaken by the coalition Government will be turned into improvements for people affected by dementia. To be clear, I am not suggesting that money be taken from the other crucial health causes I have mentioned; I wish merely to illustrate the numbers involved.
What plans does the Minister have to renew the current national strategy on dementia? That point was left unanswered in the Backbench Business Committee debate last year. As past statistics have shown, the introduction of a national strategy for dementia in England has caused a rise in the rate of diagnosis, although the level is still worryingly low at 48%. More needs to be done on prevention, particularly further investigation into whether the small change of introducing homocysteine level tests on the NHS could act as an early-warning sign in identifying the problem.
Bearing in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said about low diagnosis rates, does he agree that the national strategy should include promoting greater awareness for many of those close to dementia sufferers who do not identify with the condition? They think people are just losing their hearing or becoming visually impaired as they grow older, and the diagnosis is then made far too late because symptoms are not realised early enough.
That is a very helpful intervention from my hon. Friend. I will move on to cover some of the care homes in my constituency that are tackling those issues as one, but as he says it is important that a national strategy has accountability written into it so that these issues can be tracked as we move forward.
More than half of people with dementia cannot access the treatment, services and support they need because they have not officially been diagnosed. Furthermore, carers of people living with dementia also suffer. They have the uncertainty of knowing that something is wrong with their loved one, but have no official diagnosis. Patients and carers are therefore denied expert support through health and social care services and often feel that they cannot approach organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society without a proper diagnosis.
In my constituency, the two clinical commissioning groups that are spread across Elmet and Rothwell have wide-ranging and impressive plans to increase diagnosis rates, but their ambition can go even further. Currently, NHS Leeds North diagnoses 50.85% of people with dementia, while NHS Leeds West CCG is only slightly better with 54.35%. My constituency reflects the picture across the rest of the country, meaning that half the people living with dementia are denied the certainty of a diagnosis.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. Will he congratulate the staff of Lloyds bank in Swadlincote high street who have taken the Alzheimer’s Society as their charity of the year? The local Alzheimer’s carers group works there and raises hundreds of pounds every month for that very important cause.
My hon. Friend eloquently describes the work going on in her constituency to raise funds for this very important issue. I wish to add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) on her dedicated work and on securing the debate last month, as well as to the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow). I hope that the recent momentum achieved by the efforts of the all-party parliamentary group to shed light on this issue will result in achieving the aim—backed by NHS England—of 66% of people with dementia receiving a formal diagnosis by 2015. It can be done, as some CCGs already have a 70% diagnosis rate. Can the Minister shed any light on why individual CCG diagnosis rates are so varied and do not add up to the NHS England ambition of 66%? Are there any plans to investigate further the effectiveness of homocysteine tests on the NHS?
Is this not a very human problem? Diagnosis rates will depend entirely on whether people go to see their doctor, who, using a simple test, identifies whether someone has dementia. It is a bit unfair to say one CCG has a better rate than another because the determinant of the rate of identification is whether people go to see their doctor or are taken to see them by family and carers.
I seem to be one page behind the House in my speech this evening, because interventions keep pre-empting the next part of my speech. My hon. Friend is correct that we need wider support. I have become a dementia friend, as I know many other hon. Members have.
The aforementioned points all combine in reality to have an impact on post-diagnostic support, as well as the support for those who have not been diagnosed but need care. In my constituency, some inspiring examples make me feel optimistic that dementia can be dealt with effectively and compassionately. I have seen at first hand that such support, delivered well and early in a person’s dementia journey can lead to better outcomes.
There have been great advances in medication. If people get an early diagnosis, medication can give them an extra five to six years of quality life. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that medication is available across the whole United Kingdom to give people with dementia or Alzheimer’s a better quality of life?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He makes important points that reflect what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) said earlier: it is not just about treating the disease when it is there, but about how much preventive work can be done in the first place.
As I said at the start of my speech, I wish only that some of the strategies, diagnoses and drugs that are now available were there for my grandmother 25 years ago. I was only about 11 to 13 years old in the two years before she finally went into a home, but I realise in hindsight how her quality of life was slipping away. I talked about the toll that that took on my father when he was trying to do what was best for his mother. He would be at work all day. His mother lived in south-east London while we lived 20 miles away in Kent and he would get a phone call at 3 am from her next-door neighbour saying, “Your mother”—she was in her late 70s—“is out walking the street in her nightgown.” Those are the pressures and there was nothing in place at that time. She was still living on her own and, as her grandchildren, we would still visit her. Today, I believe that she would have had a better quality of life.
I am encouraged by some of the things that are going on. I want to draw attention to a chap called Paul Mancey and his team at Orchard Care Homes. They are located in my constituency and are developing care partnerships between charities and care providers, which is very much what my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East (Mr Ward) was talking about. This new approach means that residents are tested for hearing loss, diabetes and dementia symptoms on entry to the care home, ensuring that appropriate care packages are put in place.
Many other care homes are developing innovative ideas, too. I am pleased to say that care homes have developed immensely since we moved my grandmother into one in the early 1990s, and even more delighted that the leading company on the development of care villages is located in my constituency. Graeme Lee and his team at Springfield Healthcare have set the bar on building a quality and comfortable dementia-friendly care village at Seacroft Grange, which is located in the constituency of the hon. Member for Leeds East (Mr Mudie).
As is often the case, however, the truly inspirational support networks are not those provided by the professionals. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) talked about early diagnosis, and there are community champions. One community champion in my constituency is Peter Smith, who established the Tea Cosy Memory Café in Rothwell, which provides a welcoming place for those with dementia and their carers, as well as making Rothwell the first dementia-friendly community in Leeds.
The Alzheimer’s Society has done great work to promote awareness of dementia. Hon. Members can play a greater role, too, in raising awareness. I alluded to the fact that, like many Members, I am proud to be a dementia friend and to support the work of the Alzheimer’s Society. I urge as many Members as possible to become a dementia friend and to help the Alzheimer’s Society.
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is a dementia friend. Will he join me in encouraging all Members to make their constituency offices dementia friendly? We have just embarked on this journey. We are looking at special signage and at constituency letters to ensure that they are written in a way that people can understand, and all my constituency staff have been trained to be dementia friendly. If every Member of Parliament’s constituency office was dementia friendly, that would be a significant step forward. Perhaps we could work together on that.
I hugely welcome what the right hon. Lady has just said. Perhaps I could be cheeky and suggest that she e-mail every one of us in this House to outline what she has been doing in her constituency office, because sharing information and best practice is the best way we can help people on this journey. I look forward to working with her.
I urge as many people as possible to become dementia friendly and help the Alzheimer’s Society achieve its goal of creating a network of 1 million friends across the UK by 2015.
Those examples prove what many health professionals know: that peer support networks and dementia advisers are effective in providing information to people with dementia and their carers, and they are valued by service users. They should therefore be supported and I welcome the “Carers call to action” campaign by the Dementia Action Alliance to promote this particular facet of the issue—not to mention that they are a relatively cheap intervention that also raises awareness of dementia and tackles stigma.
What are the Government doing to improve post-diagnosis support and what plans does the Minister have to ensure that all people with dementia have access to a dementia adviser or to equivalent suitable named carers?
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) on securing another debate on dementia. It is important that we maintain the pressure, keep talking about this subject and keep challenging ourselves to take the necessary further steps. I am delighted to hear he is a dementia friend. I hope that everyone in the Chamber this evening is a dementia friend. [Interruption.] There is lots of nodding, which is encouraging.
I am delighted by that intervention, because it gives me the opportunity to say something very quickly about the initiative being taken by the Alzheimer’s Society. If someone applies to be a dementia friend, they can go along to an hour-long session on understanding dementia better. It is very illuminating to go through that process. We got the initial idea from Japan, where it has gathered enormous momentum. If we can get a million people across society who better understand dementia, it could have an enormously powerful impact by making our communities more dementia-friendly and understanding and giving people with dementia a better life. I would therefore encourage my hon. Friend to become a dementia friend.
The right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) talked about her constituency office. I will accept the challenge she laid down. I absolutely accept the case she makes. We are all serving the public, and it is critical that we make our own facilities friendly for people with dementia and their carers. My constituency office staff do not know this yet, but I will encourage them to go through this process, as all right hon. and hon. Members should.
I was struck by the constituency examples that my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell gave. He mentioned Paul Mancey of Orchard Care Homes, which is ensuring that people entering care homes get proper care and support and that their particular needs are met, and the Springfield Healthcare initiative.
I thank the Minister for allowing me to intervene on an issue that, usually because of personal experience, is close to our hearts. He speaks of the importance of care homes, understanding dementia and caring for sufferers properly, but does he agree that the best treatment is care in the home of the person suffering from dementia? In my experience, a change in circumstances advances dementia faster than anything else. By far and away the best way to treat people suffering from dementia is to make it Government policy to support people to stay in their own homes.
I broadly agree with my hon. Friend. The most important thing is that the care and support should always be right for the individual. Whatever they need they should be provided with. I recently visited the most amazing GP surgery in Gnosall, Staffordshire, which has managed—this demonstrates a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell made about the variability of dementia diagnosis rates—to achieve diagnosis rates of close to 100%. That demonstrates what is possible. Most of the diagnosing is done in the community within primary care without referral to a memory clinic. What they have found is that by getting early diagnosis and then having very good community follow-up and support—the general practice is central to that—people are staying in their own homes and maintaining a good life for far longer and admissions to care homes and nursing homes are significantly reduced. That demonstrates what is possible and confirms the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) made.
I thank the Minister for giving way. He is absolutely right about the individual care package that somebody who, unfortunately, has dementia or Alzheimer’s gets. Thankfully, long gone are the days when somebody was given a couple of tablets in the hope that that might somehow affect their condition. Is he aware of the House of Memories project in Liverpool? Is he also aware that there is an event that I am hosting here on 17 June that Members of this House are welcome to attend?
I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was not going to mention the House of Memories. He always does. Of course I am aware of it because he keeps talking to me about it and knows what I think. I am incredibly impressed by it and there is a plan for me to visit and see it for myself. He is right constantly to make the case for it and for spreading what has been demonstrated is possible in Liverpool to other parts of the country.
It is less than two months since the last debate on dementia and it is a measure of the importance that Members put on the subject and the extent of the challenge that we face as a nation that, thankfully, the House has recognised the importance of debating it regularly. It is also less than two months since we published our dementia state of the nation report, which sets out the progress that we have made on dementia and the challenges we are facing.
The report is an incredibly important document because it also includes online a set of interactive maps that, for the first time, allows someone to enter their postcode to see how their local dementia services are performing and how that performance compares with the rest of the country. Having this level of transparency, as well as the extent to which people will be able to hold their own local areas to account, will have a big impact on driving up diagnosis rates. I have already made the point that some parts of the country have demonstrated that high diagnosis rates are possible. There is no rocket science here and no reason why other parts of the country cannot follow suit, understand and learn that best practice and, critically, apply it to ensure that people get the support they need.
My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell is absolutely right when he makes the point that unless someone has had that diagnosis, they do not get access to the advice, guidance, support and services that are potentially available in a local area to make the life of that individual better and, critically, to provide more support for the carer as well. The maps highlight the variation in dementia care across the country and allow people, but also commissioners and providers, to use the data to see how they compare against other areas and then work to deliver improvements.
Around the world, someone is diagnosed with dementia every four seconds. Over 35 million people have it and as people live longer than ever before that figure is set to double every 20 years. Among them, 58% live in low to middle income countries and this proportion is projected to rise to 71% by 2050. We cannot ignore the pressure on our health and care systems and dementia costs society as a whole as much as £23 billion in the UK alone. The cost of dementia worldwide has been estimated at about £400 billion, or 1% of the world’s GDP. This is why dementia is a major priority for the UK Government and why the Prime Minister launched a dementia challenge in 2012. But we must fight back on an international scale, breaking down barriers and joining forces to address this issue, which has such an enormous human and economic cost.
Five years ago, the national dementia strategy was developed. It has achieved a lot, laying the foundations for real change. We are currently evaluating progress on dementia and on how we have achieved improvements in dementia care, and we are looking at both the national dementia strategy and the Prime Minister’s challenge. I shall come back later to the point about what comes after, and it seems to me sensible first to understand—
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Anne Milton).
That was unexpected; I have never had this happen to me before, so I apologise for looking confused! I shall carry on.
It makes sense to understand the success—and, indeed, sometimes the failures—of the current strategy and the Prime Minister’s challenge before designing what follows on afterwards. It is absolutely clear—I have tried to demonstrate this on other occasions—that something must follow; there must be a continuation. This disease has such a profound impact on people and on society that we have to keep developing our understanding and maintaining the momentum.
I am grateful for the Minister’s commitment that there will be a follow-on from the dementia strategy. He is right to look at what has worked and what might not have worked quite so well. My concern is that whatever comes next must find a way of uniting the whole system. In proceedings on the Care Bill, we debated integration and how important it was, particularly for dementia, because it will save us money. When the Minister looks at the next set of strategies, I urge him to bear in mind that the country must not have in place a set of fragmented relationships that are not bringing the system together to make things better for people with dementia and their carers. The economic impact on the country is also important.
I very much agree with the right hon. Lady on that. I think that what she argues for is developing. We are not there yet, but it is important that we have developed this ambition to achieve a diagnosis rate of two thirds, which encourages every part of the system to focus on what it needs to do. It is not a nationally imposed arbitrary target; it was based on getting every part of the system to think about what it can achieve by setting ambitious objectives. Collectively, that amounts to an ambition to achieve a two-thirds diagnosis rate, but in itself, of course, a two-thirds diagnosis rate is not good enough. We should not be satisfied when we achieve that; we have to press on. We know that the community in Gnosall has a diagnosis rate of close to 100%, so we should not be satisfied until everyone is getting properly diagnosed on a timely basis. I agree with the right hon. Lady’s point. Under the new system, with the health reforms making clinicians much more involved in the commissioning of care locally, there is a greater chance of getting the engagement of general practice across the country than we perhaps had in the past through the primary care trust route.
Has the Minister had an opportunity to consider the point I made in my intervention on the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke), which was about the exchange of good practice and information between the four regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England? Ever mindful that the highest levels of diagnosis for the whole of the United Kingdom are found in Northern Ireland, has the Minister had a chance to discuss these matters with the Health Minister, Edwin Poots from the Northern Ireland Assembly, for instance, to take the issue forward? We all gain from good practice across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and we all gain from the exchange of good ideas.
I completely agree. This disease knows no country boundaries. We all face the same challenge across the whole of the UK and, critically, across the world. That is why we pursued the matter in the G8 summit of December. There should be good collaboration across the UK through all of the devolved Administrations and the Government here. I am always happy to engage with colleagues from Northern Ireland to understand what we can learn from Northern Ireland and also because the exchange of information helps everybody to improve.
We recognise the need to build on the strategy. That is why the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia is now the main vehicle for change and improvement across health and care, in the community and for the purposes of research. The Prime Minister’s challenge runs until 2050, not just outliving the dementia strategy, but broadening its vision and providing better accountability.
Last year we hosted the G8 dementia summit. I was delighted that the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles participated in it, and challenged me during one of the sessions. The summit attracted interest all over the world, and harnessed the efforts and expertise of the G8, health and science Ministers, the World Health Organisation, the OECD, industry, researchers, philanthropists and civil society to secure much greater international collaboration in order to tackle and defeat dementia. The declaration and communiqué announced at the summit set out a clear commitment to working more closely together on a range of measures to improve early diagnosis, living well with dementia, and research.
The G8 announced an ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy by 2025, which we hope will focus minds internationally. It is backed by a commitment to increase significantly, together, the amount spent on dementia research—we know that at present it is a fraction of the amount committed to research in other areas of medicine—and to increase the number of people involved in clinical trials and studies of dementia. The United Kingdom has committed itself to funding a global dementia innovation envoy to draw together international expertise, stimulate innovation, and co-ordinate international efforts to attract new sources of finance. That will be incredibly important if we are to crack this disease.
In partnership with the OECD, the WHO, the European Commission, those involved in the EU joint programme on neurodegenerative disease, and civil society, the G8 will hold a series of high-level forums throughout 2014 on social impact investment—it will be critically important to attract new sources of funding—new care and prevention models, and academia-industry partnerships, which will also be extremely important. The G8 will meet again in the United States in February 2015, along with other global experts including the WHO and the OECD, to review the progress that has been made on the research agenda. That will enable us to focus minds and try to increase the momentum.
The G8 is an exciting global initiative, and I am immensely proud that the United Kingdom led the way in that regard. However, we are also keeping our focus on dementia in England, and we have made progress since the launch of the Prime Minister’s challenge. We have launched a new dementia friends scheme—which has already been mentioned—to make a million people more aware of what dementia actually is, thus helping to break down the barriers between people with the condition and their local communities. It is important to challenge the stigma that still exists in many places. The Alzheimer’s Society has published guidance setting out the criteria for becoming a dementia-friendly community. I was pleased to hear that Rothwell, near Leeds, is becoming a dementia-friendly community: that is very good news.
The NHS continues to support dementia care in hospitals through its CQUIN scheme—commissioning for quality and innovation—which is generating between 3,000 and 4,000 referrals for diagnosis each month. We have allocated £50 million to 116 schemes to make health and care environments such as hospital wards and care homes more dementia-friendly. Making the environment in which people live with dementia more dementia-friendly is critical to the provision of a calm atmosphere. When we see places to which attention has been given and in which investment has been made, we realise what a difference can be made. The Government’s mandate for the NHS prioritises dementia, and, as I said earlier, includes the ambition of a diagnosis rate of two thirds. My hon. Friend was right to say that the current rate is far too low. We are letting people down in many parts of the country by not securing early diagnosis.
Obviously there is an opportunity to do something once a person has been identified as needing a diagnosis, but in my experience the problem is that other things are usually taking place in people’s lives, and GPs often assume that they are just part of the ageing process. There is a failure, often because of the lack of skills of the GPs, to recognise that diagnosis is required.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right and there are still GPs who do not really believe in the importance of a timely diagnosis. I have heard GPs say, “What’s the point, because it will make no difference?” However, we know it does make a massive difference not only to the person with dementia but to the rest of their family, in understanding the condition and what they can do to help. Education among GPs is incredibly important, and attitudes are changing but we still have a way to go.
Clinical commissioning groups are working with their local councils and other partners to better understand how widespread dementia is in their communities, including among people living in local care homes. This will mean they can identify and support people with dementia in a timely way. GPs are now able to use the new directed enhanced service to improve the diagnosis of dementia by asking people in certain at-risk groups about their memory. This proactive approach should help to identify patients who are showing the early signs of dementia.
Health Education England has prioritised dementia training and has already delivered 100,000 dementia-trained staff. Again, ensuring the work force within health and care have a proper understanding of dementia is critically important.
I am pleased the Minister has now come on to the area of the work force. He will know that many of the carers in this area are paid the national minimum wage if they are lucky. Many of them are on zero-hours contracts. Many of them do not get paid for travelling between the appointments they undertake. We ask them to do some of the most difficult work that one can ever imagine but the rewards and the training and support they get is minimal. Is the Minister committed to tackling some of these issues in the care sector, which in my view are unacceptable?
I feel as strongly as the right hon. Lady does about this. We can never get good care on the back of exploiting very low-paid workers. It is not acceptable to not pay a care worker when they are travelling from one home to another. That is a breach of the minimum wage legislation unless their rate overall comes above that level. HMRC has specifically targeted the care sector and has found quite widespread abuse of, or failure to comply with, the national minimum wage. It is very important that it is complied with.
It is also important for councils commissioning care to be absolutely clear with those they contract with that they expect total compliance with the law. If a council is commissioning in a way which almost becomes complicit in a breach of the law, that is completely unacceptable. Some of the commissioning around the country is very poor and we have got to move on from commissioning on these 15-minute, short-time periods resulting from contracts being opened up for bids and there being a race to the bottom with the cheapest offer winning the contract. We have got to move on to commissioning for quality and for better outcomes.
Wiltshire has now introduced commissioning for home care based on outcomes and quality. One of the care providers now pays salaries to its care staff. So the whole attitude and approach changes and the incentive on the care provider is to improve care, not to get away with the quickest possible care visit.
It comes down very often to the way in which the care is commissioned. That is what has to change and we are working with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Local Government Association to change the way in which commissioning is undertaken. There is also an amendment to the Care Bill which will require that commissioning takes into account an individual’s well-being. Councils cannot commission on the basis of 15 minutes of care when important care work needs to be undertaken. They will not meet their obligation under the Care Bill if they are doing it in that way. That change will also help to drive up standards. Care workers need to be respected. They do incredibly important work, and they are undervalued by society.
Since 2009-10, Government-funded dementia research in England has almost doubled, from £28.2 million to £52.2 million in 2012-13. Over the same period, funding by the charitable sector has increased, from £4.2 million to £6.8 million in the case of Alzheimer’s Research UK and from £2 million to £5.3 million in the case of the Alzheimer’s Society. In July 2012, a call for research proposals received a large number of applications, the quality of which exceeded expectations. Six projects, worth a combined £20 million, will look at areas including: living well with dementia; dementia-associated visual impairment; understanding community aspects of dementia; and promoting independence and managing agitation in people with dementia.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) made the point about doing research into how we can prevent the onset of dementia in the first place. We know that vascular dementia is often related to lifestyle, including factors such as heart condition, smoking and alcohol consumption. If we can understand better how to prevent dementia from occurring, we will achieve a massive advance. Research needs to focus on that as well as on finding a cure and on living better with dementia, which is another critical area of research. It is essential that we do all this collaboratively and internationally. We cannot simply find all the results by ourselves, here in the UK. There needs to be an international effort.
The coalition Government have clearly demonstrated their commitment to dementia, but there is a massive amount still to do. We are not looking inwards to solve the problems that we are facing. At the G8, we brought the world together to work collaboratively and to look for solutions. By leading the way with the G8 summit, and with our own domestic agenda of the Prime Minister’s challenge, the UK is mobilising all available resources. We should be proud of the leadership we have shown as a nation to date, but as ever, we will continue to push much further, and we must never be complacent.
Question put and agreed to.