An in-depth study into dementia care in the North East will become a blueprint for future Government policy after the Prime Minister urged an increase in funding for research and treatment into the disease.
The most comprehensive report into dementia care in the region to date has been published by the Northern Rock Foundation and coincides with the end of a five-year national dementia strategy from central Government.
The study, which has been produced with the North East Dementia Alliance, looks set to provide a template to inform regional as well as national policy in the provision of care and services for people with dementia.
It reveals that there are 34,000 people in the North East with some form of dementia; a figure that is anticipated to double to 51,000 by 2030.
The prevalence of dementia in the North East is higher than the national rate of 569 people per 100,000, with Durham and Northumberland home to the largest number of sufferers.
While the report’s author Debbie Smith found the region scored above the national average in diagnosing the condition, she recommended more be done to raise public awareness of the condition.
“As a nation we’re living longer and we are seeing an increased number of dementia cases,” she said. “More research, improving the diagnosis rate and better care and support is vital. Just as important are the changes we need to make as a society to tackle stigma and increase understanding.
“We have world class dementia research in the region and it is important that this benefits those who need it.
“The report also illustrates how complex health and social care can be for people to navigate and so it is critical that we have a joined-up approach to commissioning and providing the best possible services and support for people with dementia and their families to have the best possible quality of life.”
Among the report’s other findings was the need for further work to support people with dementia to live in their own homes and for research currently being undertaken in the region to be translated into practice by dementia groups and clinicians.
Penny Wilkinson, chief executive at Northern Rock Foundation, said: “Over the years the foundation has played a vital role in funding in-depth research on a variety of issues and this has been crucial in ensuring that the right decisions are made for the right reasons by the right people.
“Dementia is not only a health issue, it is a social one and that’s why the report and the Government’s pledge to secure investment for research are not just timely, they are vital.”
Alzheimer’s Society regional operations manager Hazel Cuthbertson, who is based in Scotswood, Newcastle, said: “This report clearly demonstrates that genuine progress is being made in terms of diagnosis rates which is to be warmly welcomed because people who are living with dementia have a right to know they have the condition.
“This is encouraging because it shows we are moving in the right direction in terms of making our communities here in the North East places where people with dementia can live well but more needs to be done to ensure that their voices are heard and that dementia awareness is raised among people of all ages so we get things right in the future.”