TACKLING dementia has been singled out as a “priority issue” in Essex after figures revealed the number of people with the disease in the county could soar to 35,000 by 2025.

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A new report states that there are 22,300 people currently living with the condition in the county council’s catchment area.

The document, which is due to be presented to Essex County Council’s Shadow Health and Wellbeing Board on Thursday, outlines urgent measures that are being taken in response to the Government’s “Challenge on Dementia”.

The report talks of the need to develop services to respond to the rising prevalence of dementia. It also highlights improvements to end of life care and better provision for dementia sufferers to maintain their independence, as priority areas.

The council published its own dementia strategy in December and the report states that much has been achieved in relation to the disease since the release of a National Dementia Strategy in 2009.

But Clacton MP Douglas Carswell, who works closely with several care homes in his constituency, said things needed to be improved further if the county hoped to keep up with the growing demand for dementia care.

“It’s going to be a major challenge in the future and we will need to expand the provision,” he said: “But as it is a lot more challenging to provide care for people with dementia, no provider is going to be encouraged to expand into care for dementia patients unless we change our approach and have a different commissioning system.”

Mr Carswell criticised the “block purchasing” method operated by some councils to procure care home places, which he said was inappropriate for people with dementia.

He added: “I believe block purchasing is a crude method when you are dealing with people with dementia because it takes away choices, and carers are often faced with having their loved one living in a home many miles away.

“Essex County Council needs to make sure that its procurement of places for people with Alzheimer’s is not about trying to get what appears to be good value on a spreadsheet – the real value is having providers who really know how to care for people with the disease.”

The county council has not yet joined the national Dementia Action Alliance of organisations from across the charity, public and private sectors. But it is working with its local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group to develop integrated plans with dementia as a priority.

The report concluded: “If we are going to improve the lives of people living with dementia as well as supporting carers, we must continue to work with our partners to improve access to support and information.

“We need to value the contribution that people living with dementia can make to society as well as delivering outcomes that enable people to live well with dementia.”

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