Cameron announces 'dementia friends' scheme

Measures to boost early diagnosis, make care homes better suited to needs of sufferers, and increase public awareness
     There are currently 670,000 dementia sufferers in England, a number that is set to double in the next 30 years. Photograph: Timothy Fadek

The prime minister will today announce plans to recruit 1 million volunteer "Dementia Friends" capable of supporting people with the condition in their communities, wards and care homes.

The scheme is part of a package of measures to boost early diagnosis, to make wards and care homes more comfortable for people with dementia, and to help the public better understand the condition.

There are currently 670,000 people with dementia in England, a number that is set to double in the next 30 years.

Cameron has pledged to make a war on dementia a central health drive matching the previous battle against Aids.

Cameron will say: "Through the Dementia Friends project, we will for the first time make sure a million people know how to spot those telltale signs and provide support. There is still a long way to go in fighting the disease, but together we can improve the lives of millions."

Members of the public will be educated in local sessions, church halls and work places to become "Dementia Friends", Number 10 said. They may be a friend, a family member, or someone the sufferer has met through work.

The scheme will provide free coaching sessions on how to spot the signs of dementia and provide support to people with the condition.

Each Friend will be awarded a special "Forget-me-Not" badge once they have completed their training, so that they can be easily identified as being able to assist people with dementia.

The scheme is part of a package of measures to be announced today as part of the next phase of the prime minister's "challenge on dementia".

The health department is also increasing the size of the UK Biobank, which holds biological data from 500,000 individuals aged from 40-69. This expansion will include 8,000 brain scans to help scientists investigate why some people develop dementia and others do not.

The rate of successful diagnosis is expected to double from 42% at present to 80% – a target set by Cameron earlier this year when he launched his challenge.

Healthcare professionals will also be required to ask all patients aged between 65 and 74 about their memory as part of their standard health check. Simple diagnostic tests will be expected to be done on site, cutting waits that at present can be as long as 18 months.

A £1m prize fund is also being set up to rewards NHS organisations that find ways to reduce the number of sufferers left undiagnosed.

A £50m fund has already been announced to adapt wards and care home spaces to improve the experience of people with dementia – using simple changes to improve treatment and living conditions.

A total of 1,800 care homes and sites – with more than 200,000 people – across the country have signed up to a "dementia care compact" committing them to standards of care and treatment for people with dementia.



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