Morgan Griffith-David, Policy Officer (Wales), updates on the recent Senedd debate that found dementia to be a prominent topic.
Last week, the Welsh Conservatives tabled a debate in the Welsh Assembly on the rights of older people. The debate focused heavily on dementia, not least because of recent news that dementia is now the main cause of death in England and Wales.
A common theme of speakers talking about dementia was diagnosis rates – no one could leave that debate ignoring the fact that Wales still has by far the lowest diagnosis rates in the whole of the UK. Mohammad Asghar AM (Conservative, South Wales East) raised the issue of early diagnoses, calling for GPs to check more closely for the signs of dementia, and cited Alzheimer’s Society statistics that more than 1 in 10 people living with dementia will be forced to care homes early due to a lack of support.
50% diagnosis rate for dementia in Wales isn’t good enough
Lynne Neagle AM (Labour, Torfaen) chairs the Cross Party Group on Dementia and argued that the forthcoming dementia strategy for Wales should be ambitious, well-resourced and include a comprehensive road map of treatment. She welcomed the “fantastic progress” on trying to make Wales a dementia-friendly nation, with over 20 dementia-friendly communities in place. She called for dementia to be tackled with vigour, and criticised the 50% diagnosis rate target for dementia as not being good enough. She also pointed out that the number of dementia support workers per population, as is currently planned, would amount to just 32 across Wales, and argued that this is not ambitious enough, saying that Wales would currently need 370 support workers based on current diagnosis rates.
Focus on loneliness and isolation
David Melding AM (Conservative, South Wales Central) focused on social isolation and loneliness, particularly among older carers, and the needs to ensure that public transport is accessible for the frailest members of society. Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central) also focused on loneliness and addressed the need for statutory action to underpin support, while Rhianon Passmore AM (Labour, Islwyn) focused on the announced raising of the residential care capital limit from £24,000 to £50,000.
Ensure dementia awareness training in clinical care
Mark Isherwood AM (Conservative, North Wales) welcomed the calls by Alzheimer’s Society for the Welsh Government’s dementia strategy to include higher diagnosis targets, higher dementia support worker ratios and to ensure dementia awareness training in clinical care settings. He urged people to attend the upcoming consultation events for the dementia strategy that Alzheimer’s Society are running in collaboration with Welsh Government and DEEP.
Keep up the momentum of Dementia Friends
Responding to the debate, Labour’s Rebecca Evans AM (Minister for Social Services) praised the role of third sector partners such as Alzheimer’s Society and outlined that the dementia strategy would focus on diagnosis rates, embedding culture of dignity and safety, and keeping up the momentum of the Dementia Friends and Dementia Friendly Communities campaigns.
The motion and its commitment to making Wales the first dementia friendly nation in the UK secured cross-party support – definitely an encouraging sign as we wait for the consultation on the dementia strategy in December. To keep an eye on progress, follow @AlzSocCymru