Dementia strategy launched

Ministers promised to transform residential and community care for people with dementia under the national dementia strategy for England, launched today.

The five-year-plan, backed by £150m for the first two years, aims to improve public and professional understanding of the illness.

It includes key reforms for care homes, where two-thirds of all residents have dementia. Each home will appoint a senior staff member to lead improvements in the quality of dementia care, while best-practice guidance will be issued to staff.

But with the long-term focus on early intervention, resources will also be targeted towards specialist home care and older people’s community mental health teams to help reduce referrals to long-term care. Primary care trusts will set up specialist “memory clinics” to ensure early diagnosis and intervention.

Long-term training programmes to improve the knowledge and skills of social care workers around dementia will be developed by the National Skills Academy for Social Care, in partnership with other organisations. The social work degree will be updated to include a module on dementia care.

Other objectives include:

•         A national awareness campaign to tackle stigma around dementia

•         Improved services for carers

•         Joint commissioning strategies between local authorities and primary care trusts

•         A new inspection regime to monitor implementation

Health secretary Alan Johnson said delivering high-quality dementia services for the 570,000 people with the illness in England was a “national priority”. The total UK figure of 700,000 is expected to double to 1.4 million in the next 30 years.

He added that more funds could be released after the first two years, when the budget will be re-assessed.

Jenny Owen, director of adult services at Essex Council, who co-led a working group for the strategy, told Community Care that local authorities and primary care trusts would be expected to financially support the development of the workforce across all sectors.

A new professional role of dementia adviser will also be piloted, to assist people and their families navigate the care and support system.

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