Press release

Improving dementia care

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

NHS memory services receive £10 million injection.

Ten million pounds is being made available to kick start a transformation in the way people with dementia are treated by the NHS, Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow announced today. The extra funding for memory services will help to identify people with dementia earlier and treat them more effectively.

The investment aims to boost provision of advice and support on memory services including information about local care and support services. It is expected to fund follow up and review services including peer support, assessment of carers’ needs as well as advice and support on planning for the future. Local authorities and Primary Care Trusts will decide where the money is best spent in each community. This additional funding will provide a powerful incentive to local NHS and local authorities to prioritise putting in place long lasting, high quality dementia services.  

Today, the Department of Health is also publishing the first national audit of memory services which shows:

• 94 per cent of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) have a dedicated memory service for dementia and a further four per cent of PCTs are planning to set up a memory service;
• average PCT spending on memory services has increased by 22 per cent between 2008/9 and 2009/10 from £486,000 to £593,000;
• The average number of people using a memory service increased by 57%, from 605 in 2008/09 to 951 in 2010/11; and
• 44 per cent of hospitals have identified a clinical leader for dementia and almost half of all hospitals have, or are developing a care pathway for dementia.

This shows real progress is being made in giving everyone in England access to a memory service. These will provide diagnosis and support for people with dementia and their carers and the government is providing additional funding to support this. The audit results show, however that more needs to be done to improve clinical leadership for people with dementia.

There are approximately 180,000 people with dementia being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, of which 144,000 of them are being prescribed inappropriately. This results in as many as 1,800 unnecessary deaths per year.

The NHS must provide better access to alternatives to medicating the symptoms of dementia. By helping people get an early diagnosis the government can support them in accessing the right services and support at the right time so that they can live well with dementia.
 
Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow said:
 
“While there is no cure for dementia, we know that early diagnosis and early intervention can help people take control of their condition and plan for the future. With access to the right services and support, people with dementia can continue to live well for many years. Memory services have a really important role to play in this.

“It’s not always easy to talk about but dementia is an issue that we can not ignore. That is why today I have announced a further £10million for memory services. I want to further strengthen the support memory services can provide and make it possible for all those who need it to be able to access the help they need.”

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society said:

“Being diagnosed with dementia can leave people feeling isolated and alone unless they are given the necessary help and support. Memory services have a vital role to play in providing this lifeline so it is reassuring to see the government giving them the financial backing they need and that the number of people using memory services is increasing.
 
“However, we are still some way from having a nationwide picture of good quality care and support. It is vital that we continue to make advancements in the provision of memory services and work with hospitals to ensure best practice becomes the norm.”

The effects of dementia can be devastating for an individual and their family. Some 750,000 people in the UK currently suffer from dementia. Last year, the government outlined four objectives for driving forward improvements in dementia care:

• good-quality early diagnosis and intervention for all;
• improved quality of care in general hospitals;
• living well with dementia in care homes; and
• reduced use of anti-psychotic medication.

The government has set out the ambition for all hospitals to identify a clinical leader for dementia and develop a care pathway as evidence shows that some people with dementia can stay in hospital for too long because of their condition. 

More worryingly, only around a third of people with dementia in England currently have a formal diagnosis. This places the UK in the bottom third of countries in Europe for diagnosis and means more than 400,000 people and their families are not getting access to vital support.

Making dementia memory services truly universal across the NHS is an important step in the right direction to improving early diagnosis and intervention. 

Notes to Editors:

1) For more information on the audit of dementia memory services please visit the NHS Information Centre website.

2) To further help people live well with dementia, the Design Council in partnership with the Department of Health has launched a national innovation challenge titled; Living well with dementia, which will grant R&D funding to partnerships of entrepreneurial designers and service providers to develop innovative solutions for those diagnosed with dementia to live a better quality of life

3) Timely early diagnosis and supportive interventions allow people with dementia to plan for the future while they still can. They have been shown to reduce care home admissions and improve the quality, not only of the life of the person with dementia, but also their family, carers and friends.