Green paper should put dementia centre-stage

11 Apr 19

Dementia is the UK’s biggest health concern, so how should the social care Green Paper address it? Paul Edwards of Dementia UK has some answers

Elderly person on living room

 

With numerous delays to the publication of the social care Green Paper, everyone in the health and social care industry has had ample time to truly consider what should be in the long-awaited document.

The government has consistently skirted around the problem of two entirely separate health and social care systems, where families don’t know the support they’re entitled to and services don’t know which system should take responsibility for care for long-term health conditions like dementia.

If the government is still unclear on what needs to happen, then it’s up to us to put forward the changes that we would like to see.

The Green Paper has the potential to provide a shift to an environment that has so far only seen aspirational documents coming to the fore.

Firstly, the document needs to truly acknowledge the scale of long-term health conditions like dementia. The NHS Long-Term Plan only made a couple of cursory references to dementia, but we need this document to go a lot further. We need dementia to be seen as more than just an afterthought for the families and health and social care workers dealing with its challenges. This can either be through its own sub-section, detailing strategies and targets for families, or by reference to it wherever applicable.

Second, the document needs to provide a roadmap pre- and post-diagnosis. A key issue for families facing dementia is not knowing what services and support are available for them. Families should have a clear roadmap for each step of the way, from diagnosis to end of life care, and this can be a key part of the strategy stated above.

More investment should be provided for timely advice and signposting to the appropriate services. The government needs to build up more awareness of roles like dementia specialist Admiral Nurses, whose numbers are increasing throughout the UK, to help families cope during the toughest times.


'Families with someone suffering dementia urgently need clarity, compassion and respect. As professionals working in dementia care, we know what they should have in place to support them and it’s high-time the government did.'


Third, proper funding arrangements must be set out in the Green Paper which identify how to provide for families with dementia in the long term. We need either a taxation system that clearly ring-fences money for health and social care or a long-term insurance system, as in Japan, to provide the necessary security as we age. Laying the foundations for systems like this will not only help to bolster services but also fuel more jobs and innovation within health and social care.

Finally, we must bridge the gap between health and social care – and this document has a prime opportunity to do just this. To put this into perspective, the Department of Health and Social Care rarely talks about social care within the NHS. But there should be a focus on preventative health measures, which an increase in community support would provide. This can take many forms, such as exercise or gardening classes, which get people talking in addition to preserving healthy lifestyles.

Whilst the NHS Long-Term Plan should be lauded for its policy shift towards more community support, we need to ensure that these proposals are sustainable to help families in the long term. More local initiatives and programmes can provide the answer but are nothing without a commitment to long-term funding.

Families with someone suffering dementia urgently need clarity, compassion and respect. As professionals working in dementia care, we know what they should have in place to support them and it’s high-time the government did too.

The government has a real opportunity to get this right – to both support families facing dementia, and to build a wider society replete with jobs and the right funding models for a population ageing with dementia.

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