The first national dementia strategy was published on
The national dementia strategy covers a range of services, but it emphasises the importance of early diagnosis. We intend every area in the country—including the hon. Lady's constituency—to contain memory clinics, to which suitably trained GPs will refer people who show early symptoms of dementia. There they can be given an accurate diagnosis and assessment—as there are different forms of dementia—and then receive the specialist help and intervention that they require. We know that early intervention enables us to help people with dementia and their carers, and to ensure that people live much better with their dementia and stay in their own homes for longer.
The Minister is well aware that objective 13 of the national dementia strategy is to provide
"An informed and effective workforce for people with dementia".
He also knows that two thirds of the care home population has a form of dementia. Does he agree that it will be important to provide training for the entire work force in the care home and, indeed, the home care setting? When the all-party group, which I chair, has completed its inquiry into work force skills in this area, will he meet me to discuss the inquiry's conclusions and consider how they might be included in the implementation of the strategy?
The hon. Gentleman, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group, and I have met regularly. He and the all-party group have made their welcome for the new dementia strategy public, and I am grateful for that. I would be happy to meet him once his group has concluded its investigation into trainees. It is right that we need to ensure that people, whether in hospitals—nurses and doctors—or in care homes, have the right skills, knowledge and understanding of the needs of people with dementia and their carers. That is why the dementia strategy states that a senior member of the hospital or care home should be responsible for ensuring that all staff in the hospital or care home know and understand the needs of people with dementia, so that they can ensure that the response that people get is the best response to meet their needs. It is certainly a matter for both the NHS and social care sector that staff be properly trained. We will publish our work force development strategy for the adult social work force in the near future.
May I place on the record the fact that I am a trustee of a local dementia charity in Brighton and Hove supporting those with dementia and their carers? I am sure that the Minister will recognise the vital role of those caring for people with dementia in their own homes and know how welcome has been the additional funding for breaks for carers. What steps will he take to ensure that primary care trusts make use of the money to support breaks for carers, which is not ring-fenced? For example, in Brighton and Hove I think that £800,000 is available over two years.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he does in his constituency in support of people in need of social care and in support of people with dementia. He is right to draw attention to the fact that the best care we can give to people is in their own homes, where people are with their family, neighbours and loved ones. Interventions that help that to happen for as long as possible are always in the best interests of the patient. What we need to include, of course, is support for the carers. Respite care is critical. He is right to say that more money has been provided for the next two years. It has been put into PCT baseline budgets. We have announced more money for carers through the carers strategy. I hope that not only in his constituency but throughout the country local organisations will ensure that that money is spent and that respite care is provided for those people who support people with dementia in their own homes.
What extra support can the Minister give to general practitioners to ensure that they detect the early signs of dementia, which is vital?
My hon. Friend raises an important point because two thirds of people do not have their diagnosis of dementia undertaken formally. Many people therefore do not get diagnosed until two and a half or three years after they have contracted that destructive disease. Therefore, it is important that front-line staff such as GPs are better trained to spot the early symptoms. If they are not a specialist themselves, and many of them are not, it is important that they refer people to the specialist memory clinics in their areas, which can conduct a proper diagnosis. It is not just about conveying the diagnosis but about the way in which that is communicated to people with dementia and to their family, which can be an important part of coping and living well with dementia. We are ensuring that training for GPs is increased, so that they can spot the signs early, people can be diagnosed earlier, there is earlier intervention to help people to live with dementia better, and that that is the outcome across the country.
There is much to be welcomed in the national dementia strategy and I again ask the Government to find time for Parliament fully to debate that important strategy. But there is one notable gap in the strategy: there is nothing to tackle the grossly inadequate level of research into the various conditions that come under the dementia umbrella. How is the Minister getting on with persuading his colleagues the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to up the research budget for dementia? I know that that is something that the Minister is concerned about, and he knows that he has everyone's support on that.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to debate the strategy in the House, he can use the usual channels to arrange for such a debate on a Liberal Democrat Opposition day, but I am very happy to debate the strategy because it is an excellent strategy that has been welcomed across the country. The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the importance of research. The truth is that we do not have a cure for dementia; that is part of the tragedy of this disease. There is research happening not just in this country, but around the world, to examine what more can be done. But this is not only about cure; it is also about research into what helps people who have dementia and how they can be assisted to live with dementia better in their own homes and be treated better in care homes or in the NHS. I will be chairing a summit in July, where we will be bringing together people from different parts of the country and, indeed, from different countries, to look at what the state of research is and to see where the gaps in the evidence base are and what more we can be doing to improve that evidence base, drawing on the best knowledge not only in this country, but from countries around the world.
I welcome my hon. Friend's reply to Jeremy Wright, who chairs the all-party group, and I look forward to meeting him to discuss the report. As well as looking at work force development, will he be looking at what the regulators can do in their assessment of care in homes and the community, and also of training, to drive up improvement in skills in dementia care?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the important point that, as well as providing better services, we need to make sure we have inspection systems and regulation systems that drive up the quality of care. She will know that on
The Minister knows how warmly I welcome the strategy, because he was good enough to meet my constituent, Sir Terry Pratchett, along with the Prime Minister and myself, at No. 10 Downing street to discuss it. I must press the Minister, however; he has just said that he will hold a summit in July, and that is very welcome, but the Government have already announced that there will be no new money for research into dementia. How can he justify that decision?
We had a good meeting with the Prime Minister, who takes a personal interest in these matters and who met Terry Pratchett. I must put on record the huge courage Terry Pratchett is displaying in allowing everyone to see how he is coping with the disease—with the diagnosis and then with living with the early stages. Indeed, many public figures have now been talking about their experiences. That is an important part of the process of raising awareness among the professions and the wider community about this disease and its consequences, and how we can help people live with it. On research, the Wellcome Trust is spending £30 million this year and more money is going into research. We need to ensure that before the summit we have done an analysis of all the research that is going on, and where the evidence base is insufficient or has gaps in it, so that we can plan and direct our resources to those areas where research will be most effective.