Promoted by Mark Ward-Jones on behalf of the Torfaen Constituency Labour Party at 27 Brunel Road, Fairwater, Cwmbran, Torfaen NP44 4QT.
Lynne Neagle AM yesterday (20 January 2016) led a Senedd short debate on creating a National Dementia Strategy for Wales. It backed calls by the Alzheimer’s Society on a health challenge of our time, with 44,000 people in Wales living with the disease.
Given that diagnosis rates are set to increase by a third by 2021, the local Torfaen AM made the imperative case for a comprehensive and fully resourced national strategy. It would give our NHS the tools it needs to cope, and plan for a cultural change where society can recognise symptoms and become dementia friendly.
In the run up to the short debate, the Welsh Government launched it’s Together for Mental Health consultation, which commits to developing a dementia strategic plan by December this year.
Lynne Neagle AM outlined the factors a full dementia plan should cover. These include diagnosis rates, support after diagnosis, joined-up working between health and social care, training for health professionals, support for carers, public awareness campaigns, dementia friendly communities, and the creation of an oversight role to ensure full delivery of the strategy.
Lynne Neagle AM said:
“I’m really pleased to lead this debate on what I see as the health challenge of our time, and I thank the Alzheimer’s Society for their support. One in three people born in 2015 are likely to develop dementia. Globally, by 2018 it will become a staggering trillion dollar disease.
My calls today build on those of the Alzheimer’s Society for a comprehensive, fully resourced national dementia strategy. Which to my mind, must be a linear roadmap of a patient’s journey from diagnosis, enabling independent living for as long as possible, through to palliative care; whilst also planning for a cultural change towards a dementia friendly nation.
Dementia has, according to surveys, overtaken cancer as the UK’s most feared illness; and so warrants parity of commitment with cancer where a strategy has had an impact…Central to this is a ‘dementia-proofing role’ to ensure practical delivery and robust oversight, similar to the Cancer Implementation Group.
I was pleased to see the Ministers commitment earlier this week to developing a dementia strategic plan, which I recognise is still at consultation phase. [This] debate is timely, I want to re-enforce the context and hopefully gain assurances on the Ministers thinking of what a finished strategy will look like.”
Ms Neagle welcomed action so far by the Welsh Government, including investment in dementia link nurses, primary care support workers, a 24hr bilingual helpline and help for patients to access the best support and information. Governments worldwide have shown goodwill in funding and resources, as dementia has rightly earned its place in media coverage and on the global agenda.
Responding to the debate, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM, said:
“I too thank Lynne for tabling today’s debate… There is no doubt that dementia poses an absolutely significant challenge for health and social services alike, and indeed for us all as citizens.
One of the things that we have to try and inject into the discussion of dementia is some hope for the future …Not only are there things that we can do to have an impact on the reservoir of dementia that there is in the population already, but there are new and emerging forms of treatment that might make a revolutionary difference to the way in which this disease has an impact on our society in the future.
Lynne asked me in her contribution to outline some of the strands that I think our new dementia strategy needs to have in it. Here’s one: a new emphasis on prevention… In February, I hope to launch a dementia risk awareness campaign to encourage people to ‘act now’ to reduce their own risk of dementia….The Caerphilly cohort study shows us absolutely clearly the extent to which the risk of developing dementia can be influenced by decisions that individuals take in their own lives.
To the new strategy itself, we want to have it in place by the end of this calendar year. We want to make sure that we design it in partnership with people who use our services, as well as people who provide them.”