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2nd April 2015

New dementia targets and staff unveiled by Welsh Government

A new £1m to plan to recruit new primary care support workers to help people diagnosed with dementia has been unveiled as part of a new Welsh Government drive to tackle the disease.

Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford also said he wants health boards to work towards a 50% diagnosis rate by 2016. The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that 57% of people with dementia in Wales have not yet had it clinically confirmed.

Residential and nursing homes will be provided with additional support to train staff and make their buildings more dementia-friendly.

The policies are part of the Welsh Government’s ambition to make Wales a dementia-friendly nation and builds on progress to improve care and support for dementia sufferers and their families.

Ministers are providing an extra £1m to support the new dementia policies, with £800,000 to fund the new primary care support workers.

This is in addition to the £130m invested in new elderly mental health facilities across Wales; funding for the Alzheimer’s Society to provide special patient information packs; supporting a free, 24-hour Wales Dementia Helpline and providing books on prescription about dementia in every public library.

In 2014, there were an estimated 43,477 people in Wales living with dementia - that number is expected to increase to more than 55,000 by 2021.

The Welsh Government's 2015 plan for dementia in Wales

Targets set out in the plan include:

  • A new target for health boards to improve dementia diagnosis rate to at least 50% by 2016.
  • Funding for 32 new primary care support workers, who will provide face-to-face support, information and advice on accessing the right care and services for people diagnosed with dementia. They will also work in their local communities to raise awareness of dementia and help people with the disease to live longer in their communities;
  • New funding for four additional primary care link nurses who will visit the 675 residential and nursing homes in Wales to provide training for staff about how to identify dementia, provide post-diagnosis support, link up with local GP services and advise how to make buildings more dementia-friendly;
  • Increasing the number of people in Wales trained as dementia friends who are able to spot signs of the illness and help sufferers and create more dementia supportive communities. There are currently more than 9,800 dementia friends in Wales and 400 champions. The Welsh Government will provide funding for the next three years for the Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia friends campaign;
  • Publishing a new guide on the steps people can take to reduce their risk of developing dementia;
  • Encouraging more GP surgeries to take up Welsh Government-funded dementia training - to date 30% of GP practices in Wales have already completed the training, with virtually all of them subsequently agreeing a dementia lead and action plan.

Professor Drakeford said: “Our aim is to improve dementia diagnosis rates across the country and better support people who have been diagnosed with the illness. We must make sure both they and their families have access to the best information and care available.

“Currently one in five people over 80 have dementia but in the next six years the number of people in Wales with dementia is set to increase by almost a third.

“Our society will need to change to meet this demand, becoming more aware of the signs and symptoms of dementia. All those who work in our health service will need to become more aware of the disease and know what care, advice and support they can offer to improve people’s lives.”

The Alzheimer’s Society responded to the news saying: "There are currently 45,000 people living with dementia in Wales. However, behind this statistic there are real people, many of whom are struggling to cope. We therefore welcome the Minister’s focus on dementia and Welsh Government’s ambition to make Wales a dementia-friendly nation.

"The plan outlined by the Minister is an important stepping stone to transforming people’s lives. Every person with dementia should have access to the certainty of a diagnosis and the right support to come to terms, and live well, with the condition.

"It is important that we see meaningful changes to truly transform the lives of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s Society looks forward to working with Welsh Government to achieve this."

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