Fears for rise in dementia sufferers

HEALTH bosses have put their cards on the table by revealing bold plans for a major overhaul of dementia care in Suffolk.

Simon Tomlinson

HEALTH bosses have put their cards on the table by revealing bold plans for a major overhaul of dementia care in Suffolk.

A set of wide-ranging strategies have been put forward in the hope of defusing the county's time bomb over the next five years.

The move comes after it was revealed the number of people affected by the disease could increase by 65% by 2025.

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However, concerns have been raised over whether there will be adequate funding available to meet the sharp rise in demand.

The report - jointly developed by NHS Suffolk, NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, and Suffolk County Council - has been put together following consultation with the public, health bodies and family carers.

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It has been produced in response to the Government's National Dementia Strategy and is due to go before NHS Suffolk's Board for approval next Wednesday.

There are currently 9,870 people with dementia in Suffolk at a cost of �35million - but this figure is expected to surge to 16,337 over the next 16 years.

The report's author Sharon Stott, the head of commissioning and development at NHS Suffolk, said: “While numbers and associated costs are daunting, the impact on those with the illness and families are profound.”

The document aims to answer serious questions over the lack of support for sufferers in Suffolk after it emerged last year that only one in three people has had their condition diagnosed.

One of the main driving forces behind the changes will be the implementation of a support service, which will give patients a single person to contact who can troubleshoot issues and help them receive tailor-made care.

In the short term, this service may be tendered out to organisations until a full-blown system is set up.

Emphasis will be placed on getting early diagnoses, raising awareness and improving professionals' knowledge of the illness, while support will also be given to the patients' closest relatives, who are often elderly themselves.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, which has been involved with the consultation, said she was “delighted” these issues were being tackled.

However, details of how the strategy will be funded were unclear last night.

The report says there is a strong belief that joint commissioning with a “dedicated budget” is the best model for gaining a comprehensive “value-for-money” service.

But Mrs Savage remained sceptical whether the initiative could have its full impact with a gloomy economic forecast ahead.

She said: “My biggest concern is where we sit with the effects of the recession. Both Suffolk County Council and NHS Suffolk may see reductions in funding in real terms. It needs to be managed in context of very little, if any, extra funding.

“Here in Suffolk we have a slightly increased problem. We have people who retire into the county so we have a higher than average older population.”

To read the reports on the dementia strategy, visit www.suffolk.nhs.uk, then follow About Us, The Board and 2009 Board Meetings.

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