Strengthening the integration of health and social care responses to dementia is a central aim of the national dementia strategy. The strategy said that we would provide national support and funding to a local national health service board and local authority partnership to demonstrate the value of a whole-system approach. Because of the high level of interest and the quality of applications, we have now decided to support three partnerships—in North Lanarkshire, Midlothian, and Perth and Kinross. That complements activity in implementing national standards in dementia care pathways and work to use outcomes data locally to measure and compare the impact of dementia services.
At a recent briefing meeting with NHS Lothian, local MSPs heard of progress on the strategy. The strategy sets targets for NHS boards to deliver agreed improvements in early diagnosis and service response by March 2011. Will the cabinet secretary say whether similar targets have been set for local authorities with regard to social care services and, if so, whether similar progress has been made?
Let me say first that I appreciate the tenor of the member's question, and I hope that she has no doubt about the importance that the Government attaches to the work. The national dementia strategy is the first ever dementia strategy in Scotland.
The member will be aware of the different performance arrangements that we have with health boards and local authorities. For health boards, I set what are known as HEAT—health improvement, efficiency, access and treatment—targets. For local authorities, we have the concordat outcomes-based approach. However, the work that we have done with local authorities on the strategy and its implementation leaves me in no doubt that there is a commitment across local authorities to ensure that they play their full part.
I am aware of the issue and of Rhona Brankin's long-standing interest in it. We have had exchanges in the chamber on the issue, and I know that she has also had exchanges, and perhaps correspondence, with the Minister for Public Health and Sport. The issue is complex, as I know the member appreciates. Rather than try to summarise it, I am more than happy to write to her, and meet her if she would find that helpful, to go into some of the issues and explain the steps that the Government is taking.
Does the cabinet secretary recognise the value of the voluntary sector in dealing with dementia cases? For example, East Kilbride dementia carers group has come to an arrangement with South Lanarkshire Council on the use of direct payments so that care is personalised on the choice of the dementia sufferers and their family on what is best for their wellbeing. Is that something that she would encourage other local authorities to investigate?
Yes, I recognise and greatly appreciate the role and contribution of the voluntary sector. East Kilbride dementia carers group is one of many examples of voluntary organisations making a big contribution. I would encourage not just local authorities but health boards and the statutory sector in general to look innovatively at how they can work even more closely with the voluntary sector.
In my experience over the past few years in the job, I have found that the voluntary sector, because it tends to be close to the service users, is often the most innovative, flexible and fleet of foot in finding solutions to difficult problems. I certainly agree with the tenor of Linda Fabiani's question.