Dementia is a topic of such importance for so many people in the Bexhill and Battle constituency. Those living with dementia face the fear of an uncertain future, whilst their family and friends experience their loved ones slipping away.
I have campaigned for improvements to diagnosis and more investment for research. This is something I will continue to do.
Many of you will know that we have a high prevalence of dementia in our constituency. Recent research published by research charity Alzheimer’s Research UK shows that nearly 2,500 people in the Bexhill and Battle constituency are currently living with the disease. Their research also shows that our constituency has the second highest number of residents living with Alzheimer’s of all Parliamentary constituencies in the UK. Only Christchurch in Dorset ranks higher than we do.
Dementia now the leading cause of death in the UK, and with an estimated one million people expected to be living with the disease by 2025
Speaking in Parliament
I have previously spoken on dementia in Parliament, where I have presented what is happening locally. Last year, I joined the debate in Parliament on Dementia research and called for a better deal for those with dementia, and the selfless people who care for them. The video for this can be found here.
Improving local diagnosis
Improvements to diagnosis is something that Huw has supported locally. He has previously met with Dr Stephen French to discuss the pioneering Bexhill-based memory assessment service which is supporting patients with dementia across the constituency and the wider East Sussex coast. As a community-based service, anybody who presents with a memory problem will be seen by their local GP in the first instance. After they have gone through other causes of memory loss, such as depression or circulatory disease, they will be referred to a local dementia specialist for a full assessment, at a GP close to their home.
This service has proven to be transformative with those who are already worried about memory loss being able to go into a setting with which they are more familiar, and which is less intimidating than having to go to a hospital or mental health hospital where such tests can often take place. This has had the effect of encouraging more people to take up the offer and attend the test.
I took this test at the Pebsham GP surgery a couple of years ago to highlight our area being ahead of the game by offering testing away from a hospital setting. A local GP, accompanied by someone who can immediately be on hand to help and advise if the test is positive, is a more comfortable and familiar experience. It was good to highlight these fantastic local care initiatives whilst asking for social care reform to be delivered.
When the test is positive, that comes as a great shock to both the individual and their family, but with this particular service, two weeks after diagnosis patients receive a visit from a local dementia support worker to see how they are getting on and to discuss the range of support services available to them. Then there is aftercare, followed up by a medical review to see how the patient is coping and to assess the effectiveness of any medication. Their pathway then comes back into their own GP service, so it becomes one of the conditions that they are being treated for.
I was proud to stand on a manifesto in 2019 that committed to doubling dementia research funding and finding a cure for dementia.
In memory of the late Dame Barbara Windsor, the Government launched a new mission in 2022 to put this into practice. Research funding for dementia will rise to a total of £160 million a year by 2024, with an additional £95 million being provided to increase clinical trials and research projects.
A new taskforce – made up of industry, the NHS, academia and families affected by dementia – will lead this work to allocate funding. You can register your interest to take part through the Join Dementia Research website here: https://www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk
The Government has announced its intention to develop and publish a Major Conditions Strategy. The strategy will set out a strong and coherent policy agenda that sets out a shift to integrated, whole-person care. Interventions set out in the strategy will aim to alleviate pressure on the health system, as well as support the Government’s objective to increase healthy life expectancy and reduce ill-health related labour market inactivity. Dementia is one of the six major conditions included in the strategy.
You can find out more about the work I have been involved in, in this area in the links below.