Everyone, not just those working in the health profession, must welcome the news that the UK is set to get a memory clinic in ‘every town’ to help tackle the growing issue of dementia.
That is the bold statement from Care Services Minister Phil Hope this week who described the clinics as ‘one-stop shops’ offering expert assessment, support, information and advice for people with memory problems and their carers. It forms part of a five-year strategy by the Government which will see £150million ploughed into the exercise in the first two years.
This is excellent news. Working at the coalface of care and dementia, we are acutely aware of the issues surrounding this illness. We regularly have waiting lists for families who would like an apartment for a loved one whose condition has deteriorated to such a degree that specialist support becomes the only option.
Demand for such support is growing and figures suggest that within a generation 1.5 million people in the UK will be affected by dementia. If the Government is serious about this it needs to ensure planning constraints and lengthy appeal processes don’t stand in the way of new projects as they often do now.
Having worked within this profession all of my life it has been abundantly clear for more years than I care to remember that this has the potential to become one of the UK’s largest and most serious health issues. Dementia hasn’t suddenly emerged overnight, it has been growing at an alarmingly rapid rate and yet so far very little has been done to support it or to support those organisations who are working within this sector to help care for people and their carers.
Yes, we welcome the news today but it mustn’t be a hollow gesture. Robust and meaningful action needs to follow – not only to create memory clinics, train clinicians and support staff, provide on-going education and awareness of the condition, but also to stimulate and fund more vital research into the illness.
This can’t be a one-off solution, the devastating affect of dementia is here to stay. Everything we do going forward has to become an engrained part of our total healthcare service. The problem will not go away, it will grow and grow – while the Government’s announcements today are welcoming news, they are only the tip of the iceberg.
Managing Director, Care Division