Every NHS employee should be aware of the condition, says dementia tsar Alistair Burns
The prime minister this week launched his Challenge on Dementia, alongside the Alzheimer's Society's report, Dementia 2012: a national challenge. This clear commitment from the government, and the prime minister personally, to tackle the issue will change the experience of care for people living with dementia in clinical, community and personal settings.
Everyone involved in dementia care does not need to be told the extent of the problem. The number of people affected is increasing, an estimated 670,000 in England and with an ageing population we need to make sure that the wide-ranging package of high impact interventions and innovations, as announced by the prime minister, delivers the right treatment to the right people at the right time.
There is widespread fear, stigma and misunderstanding surrounding dementia among both the public and professionals. We know from a YouGov poll carried out for the Alzheimer's Society that more people over 55 now fear getting dementia more than cancer, yet our diagnosis rates remain low at, on average, 42%. We know that there are a number of reasons for this, including low levels of knowledge about dementia (such as "it's part of normal ageing and nothing can be done for it") so we are extending our awareness campaign about the early signs and symptoms of dementia. We have been working closely with the Alzheimer's Society, which will lead on awareness and communities work.
We are developing clinician-led early diagnosis. As part of the NHS healthcheck, health professionals will make people aged 65 and older aware of memory clinics and give them the opportunity to have an assessment if they feel they need one. From April 2013 there will be a quantified, local ambitions for diagnosis rates across the country, underpinned by robust and affordable local plans.
We will be working with the medical profession to identify how best to improve early diagnosis of dementia through improvements in awareness, education and training. As part of the training initiative, I chair a workforce advisory group established to support the delivery of an informed and effective workforce for people with dementia. It includes representatives from a broad sector of stakeholders including, most importantly, people with dementia and carers. Our aspiration, which reflects the level of ambition, is that 10% of the NHS workforce should be dementia experts, 50% dementia trained but, all importantly, 100% should be dementia aware.
There will be financial rewards for hospitals offering quality dementia care. From next month, up to £54m will be available through the Dementia CQUIN (commissioning for quality and innovation) to hospitals for offering dementia risk assessments to 90% of over-75s admitted as emergencies to hospital. CQUIN are payments that hospitals can earn by improving care in defined clinical areas. Care of people with venous thromboembolism (where a clot in one of the veins of the leg is dislodged and goes to the lung) has improved dramatically as a result of it being a national CQUIN for the past few years. We want all hospitals to achieve the goal of identifying, assessing and referring people who may be suspected of having dementia for a more detailed assessment.
Around two-thirds of care home residents have dementia and we have developed a dementia care and support compact, which is supported by leading care home and home care providers. Ten providers have set out their vision of what excellent care for people with dementia looks like and will be developing individual pledges to improve care for people with dementia. Through the compact, the social care sector will set a benchmark for high-quality, relationship-based care and support. It will focus on quality of life, as well as quality of care.
The research community is also being engaged, with the doubling of overall funding for dementia research to over £66m per year by 2015, across the board from basic science research into the causes of dementia to research into the best models of practice which can have a more immediate impact on the quality of care.
The funding will pay for a variety of research strands including major investment in brain scanning. The Medical Research Council will make a major additional investment in dementia research. We expect this to start with a pilot, imaging 8,000 volunteers, then rollout to 50,000-100,000 volunteers. There will also be funding for research into "living well with dementia", and into dementia prevention provided by the National Institute for Health Research.
Dementia is a challenge facing all of us and has touched the lives of an estimated 25 million people in the UK. By working together and making it the national priority it is becoming, people with dementia and their carers will receive the best treatment and care that they deserve and which we as a society have the duty to provide.
• Professor Alistair Burns is the national clinical director for dementia
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Mar 27 2012, 04:04 AM
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