Skip to main content

Health: Dementia

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in implementing their dementia strategy launched in February; and how effective it has been.

My Lords, the Government have just completed the first full year of implementing the five-year National Dementia Strategy (NDS) to transform services for people with dementia. Progress has been made in many areas. Most recently, noble Lords may have noticed a public awareness campaign, including television adverts, designed to reduce the stigma associated with dementia.

I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. However, yesterday the Public Accounts Committee came out with some rather worrying figures. By the end of this month, every primary care trust and local authority will be required to have in place a joint action plan to implement the dementia strategy and to account for the money that has been allocated. It also reported that research into dementia has fallen by 7 per cent. Will the Minister give me an idea of the Government’s response to this?

It was always envisaged that the first two years of the dementia strategy would be gearing up, as it were, for full implementation. Sixty million pounds has been made available to PCTs in the first year. We are assessing how that is spent and what it is spent on, and will report back on that. We are piloting and evaluating a variety of different projects. I was very surprised to learn that research funding had fallen because the money is there to spend on research. We need a volume of applications for dementia proposals to come forward so that research can be undertaken. My honourable friend Phil Hope has set up an advisory group on dementia research which we hope will develop practical ways of working together to increase the volume and quality of dementia research. I hope that when we have this discussion in a year’s time I will be able to report an increase in research spending.

My Lords, why are people with dementia staying too long in hospital? Does the dementia strategy recognise this problem and how to resolve it?

The House has discussed this matter several times. We certainly recognise the need to improve the quality of care for people with dementia in general hospitals and to improve the training of those who deal with people with dementia in hospitals. This is one of the seven priority areas for urgent action in the dementia implementation plan.

My Lords, the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, of which my wife is president and in which I take a very serious interest, has produced figures in the very recent past showing that the cost of Alzheimer’s to society as a whole is a staggering £23 billion. I am not sure whether I have remembered that correctly, but the figure is astronomical. It is going to get worse because people with Alzheimer’s are living longer and need carers. The relatives of those with Alzheimer’s cannot earn a living because they have to be carers. This research to find out what to do and to be aware of the cost is essential. Is the noble Baroness aware of that? I hope that she is.

We certainly are. The overall annual economic burden of dementia is estimated to be £14.3 billion a year. This is a huge cost. The direct cost to the NHS is £8.2 billion a year. I pay tribute to the work of the Alzheimer’s Society, which is a very important partner in the delivery of a dementia plan. Its reports have helped to point us in the right directions as regards the major priorities for research, as has the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

Can the Minister give us any idea of how high a priority will be given under the dementia plan to carers’ need for respite when their caree, as it were, is living exclusively at home?

We know that carers play a vital role, and supporting them is a very important priority. That is why we launched the 10-year cross-government strategy to support carers. The noble Baroness will be aware that the new national care service White Paper, which will be with us shortly, addresses the issue of carers and how we can best support them in the very important work that they do in supporting not only people with dementia but a very large range of elderly people and those with other disabilities.

In the first two years we have appointed a clinical director, so the leadership that we require at hospital, local and regional level is very close to being in place. We have 40 demonstrator sites, which are where social services and healthcare services work together to produce local plans on the best way of dealing with people with dementia. Those are in place and will roll out in the fullness of time next year. We have also issued guidance on commissioning services for people with dementia. Noble Lords will be aware that we also commissioned the anti-psychotics report that was published in November last year, and are deciding what to do with it. Those are four areas where progress has been made.