Dementia tsar: no barriers to five-year plan’s success

The absence of dementia as a national priority for the NHS is no barrier to improving care, the first national dementia tsar has said.

Speaking exclusively to Community Care, Dr Alistair Burns, shortly to take up his post as the national clinical lead for dementia, said: “In my opinion, it not being an explicit priority isn’t a barrier to the strategy’s success.”

The National Audit Office concluded the national dementia strategy was at risk of failure in a report earlier this year. It attributed this, in part, to dementia’s exclusion from the highest levels of the NHS’s priorities.

Burns added he felt that this only reflected half the picture because dementia care needed work between primary care trusts and councils to be successful.

He said the real test was improvements in quality for patients and carers. Burns also said he did not believe the inability of most primary care trusts to identify how money allocated for the dementia strategy had been spent – as identified by the all-party parliamentary group on dementia in a report last week – was an issue.

The old age psychiatrist, who takes up his post at the Department of Health on 1 April, said that the £150m allocated for the strategy was a “drop in the ocean”, next to the £8.3bn spent across social care and health on dementia each year.

Burns also said that he thought a change of government at the forthcoming election would not endanger the strategy’s goals.

He said the “significant financial savings that can be made” through improvements in dementia care would make it a priority whoever was in power.➔ Interview, p22

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