Politicians must put aside differences and work together to make difficult choices on social care funding - Care Minister
Care Minister Caroline Dinenage joined an expert panel to discuss the challenges faced by the social care sector in developing solutions for an older population living with dementia at Alzheimer’s Society’s Annual Conference in London this week.
Responding to a question at the Alzheimer’s Society’s Annual Conference in London – which takes place during Dementia Action Week - about how best to get an agreement for a long-term social care funding solution that delivers for people with dementia, Care Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “we have to have an honest conversation about how we want to tackle this and how we move forward.”
The Minister joined an expert panel to discuss the challenges faced by the social care sector in developing solutions for an older population living with dementia. Other panellists including Sandy Sweet, whose mother has dementia, Julie Ogley, President of ADASS, Prof. Steve Powis, National Medical Director for NHS England and Richard Murray, CEO of the King’s Fund.
Kathryn Smith, Alzheimer’s Society’s Chief Operating Officer, called for the creation of a Dementia Fund, saying “it’s time dementia is recognised for the disease that it is and the impact it has as a health condition, and not a social care condition. Funding should be covered by the NHS, and the Dementia Fund is the way to do that.”
The Care Minister said a £2 billion fund of this kind would mean making “difficult choices” and that “politicians have to put aside differences and work together to make them.”
There was broad consensus from the panel that alongside the political nature of the discussion around social care funding, a larger conversation in society was needed on the topic.
Julie Ogley, President of ADASS, said: “We as a society need to be to prepared to pay for it, and we need that to be as fair as we can.”
Beyond the Prime Ministers Challenge on Dementia 2020
The panel were also asked what their top priority would be for the next government national strategy, following the Prime Ministers Challenge on Dementia 2020.
Caroline Dinenage MP said that delivering a strategy that was credible among those who fully understand dementia was her number one priority.
She proposed that alongside the four themes of the current challenge - dementia awareness, health and care delivery, research and medical and social innovation and risk reduction – that technology should be added as a fifth theme and that we should look at “how technology can actually support, rather than replace humans and really help people’s lives.”
Prof. Steve Powis stated that there was a need to look at how the long-term plan can work at its very best for people with dementia, particularly around key focus of integrated, joined-up care.
The National Medical Director for NHS England said, “I know from personal experience that that joined up fragmented care is too apparent in the health service at the moment,” and emphasized the need to get joined-up care to work for those with dementia.
Workforce and technological improvements
Throughout the panel discussion, training and workforce improvements were identified as a potential solution to improving the lives of those living with dementia.
The Care Minister said that it was important that staff were trained across both health and social care, and that the Dementia 2020 plan detailed that all staff should have specific dementia training.
The MP for Gosport described how hospitals are a “really scary, difficult environments” for individuals with dementia, and that we need to do everything we can to keep people out of hospital and in their own homes.
She described how technology could help, for example Skype surgeries, and cited a pilot study in Warwick which saw 40% reduction of hospital admission from one care home alone when using this technology.
When asked the model of community-based care they think would be the best fit for the future, the benefits of integrated social care were once again raised.
Sandy Sweet said that “importance of integrated health and social care is going to be the way forward” and emphasised the work of charities and schemes such as Alzheimer’s Society side by side service –which allows those with Dementia to engage with trained volunteers in the community.
The Minister suggested learning from the best examples of what worked well in the past and bring in the benefits of the modern world.
She said, “there is no substitute for local community support” and that there was a need to build dementia friends community and invest a lot more in supporting carers.
Alzheimer’s Society have estimated there to be over 670,000 people in the UK acting as primary, unpaid carers for people with dementia.
They have called for carers to be provided with comprehensive support, including assistance with day-to-day caring, emotional support and regular, planned access to respite.
The success of Personal Healthcare Budgets was also discussed by the Minister, who emphasised the need to roll them out further.
Finally, the panel discussed how as individuals we can change the way that dementia is seen in society.
Richard Murray, CEO of the King’s Fund, spoke of the seachange over the last ten years in society around conversations about mental health and called for a similar transformation the way that we discuss dementia.
Sandy Sweet and Kathryn Smith both proposed that individuals join Alzheimer Society’s Dementia Friends movement, which aims to change people’s perceptions of dementia as a way that individuals can change the way that dementia is seen in society.
The Minister said we must look at what we can all do as individuals and that the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends course is a “brilliant way of starting.”
Alzheimer’s Society is calling for investment in high-quality, person-centred care through a dedicated the Dementia Fund, ending the dementia penalty people face when paying for care. Find out more at alzheimers.org.uk/fixdementiacare