Matt Hancock MP: As individuals and as a country, it is vital that we support the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK
Dementia is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales. On World Alzheimer's Day, the Secretary of State of Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, asks everyone to take a moment to reflect on what they can do for people living with dementia.
Right now, 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK. Globally, someone develops the condition every three seconds. It is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, with an estimated economic cost worldwide of more than $1 trillion. It’s great people are living longer, but a consequence is that these numbers are set to rise.
So, on World Alzheimer’s Day, it is worth reflecting on the scale of the challenge posed by dementia to health and social care systems around the world. As individuals and as a country, it is vital that we do something about it.
We are determined to rise to this challenge and reshape public services for our ageing population. Later this year we will set out a broad green paper on social care and work out how we can support our dedicated carers, both paid and very often unpaid, who do so much.
Our Ageing Society Grand Challenge too will help us respond to the global trend for people living longer. This Challenge is supported by a £100 million ‘healthy ageing programme’.
This challenge is set to drive the development of new products and services to improve wellbeing, harnessing modern technology to help people lead independent and active lives for longer.
Every day I hear of incredible innovations transforming the way people live. Paro the robotic seal, a marvel of clinically directed animatronics developed in Japan, is being used to engage with people with dementia in care homes across Denmark, Australia and the USA.
Meanwhile, Jelly Drops, created by British engineering student Lewis Hornby, inspired by his grandmother, is a clever way to keep people with dementia hydrated using tasty, super hydrated treats and helps them avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.
I’m confident that cross-border cooperation on research and innovation can help us find new and exciting solutions to the challenges posed by dementia across the world.
NHS Health Check, currently offered to all people over the age of 40, will soon include questions designed to identify lifestyle and behaviour factors which may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia. This information will not only help health professionals reduce that risk, but raise awareness amongst the general population – even to the point of recognising the signs and symptoms of dementia in themselves, their friends and loved ones.
The Alzheimer’s Society incredibly successful Dementia Friends initiative is already reducing stigma in our communities. We all received Dementia Friend training at Cabinet in May, and I’m really keen for more people to join the 2.6 million strong community and reach our target of four million by 2020.
We now have one million NHS health and care staff trained in dementia awareness. We are exploring options to deliver this training to the wider social care workforce – who are each vital to the delivery of high quality care.
I ask everyone on World Alzheimer’s Day to take a moment to reflect on what they can do for people with dementia.
Consider becoming a Dementia Friend, join local networks to create Dementia Friendly Communities, or perhaps use your position to influence businesses and other organisations to adapt or develop technologies for the benefit of people living with the condition.
This condition affects all of us, whether we have it or not. A society that supports family, friends and communities – not just the person directly affected – is a society we should all want to live in. This is not a utopian fantasy, it’s a necessity – so help us make it a reality.
Matt Hancock is Conservative MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.