I believe increasing public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public is vital to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition. There are over 3 million Dementia Friends in the UK and my whole office has taken Dementia Friends training.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia. In 2017, the Government launched the UK Dementia Research Institute, in partnership with the Alzheimer's Society and Alzheimer's Research UK, with £290m funding, the single biggest investment ever made in the UK in this field. Under the Challenge on Dementia 2020 strategy, the Government's commitment to spend over £300m on dementia research between 2015 and 2020 was met a year early, with £341m being spent by March 2019 through the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department of Health and Social Care. The Government is also supporting the £79 million Accelerating Detection of Disease challenge, a project bringing together the NHS, industry and leading charities to support research into the early diagnosis of disease, including dementia.
By the end of 2020, all relevant staff were scheduled to have received appropriate dementia training, including training relevant staff to be able to signpost interested individuals towards research via the Join Dementia Research Service. I understand that good progress has been made against this goal, and more options are currently being explored to increase take-up of more advanced training among those who need it.
There is a commitment to improving detection, with more targeted screening and Rapid Access Diagnostic Centres, so that in 10 years’ time these measures will help achieve 55,000 more people surviving cancer each year, and 100,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases being prevented.
Dementia during the coronavirus pandemic
It is a challenging time for families caring for loved ones, particularly those who have needed to take on extra responsibilities. The Government is working closely with local authorities, the care sector and other stakeholders to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on people with dementia and to identify what additional actions may be required to ensure safety, and access to the right support and care.
In addition, research through the National Institute for Health Research was commissioned on how to manage or mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on people with dementia and their carers living in the community. The research has considered the best ways to support people to stay well during the outbreak, including help to manage the psychological and social impacts of social distancing, self-isolation, and lockdown. Find: more information, including summary leaflets.
Care home residents
Care home residents will be able to be visited indoors by a single, named individual from 8th March as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions.
The scheme will allow a single visitor to hold hands indoors with their relative or contact in a care home, and make repeat visits under carefully designed conditions to keep residents, staff and visitors safe.
- Visitors to be allowed to hold hands, with tests required before entry and PPE to be worn on site
- Scheme designed to be the next, cautious step in bringing families back together
Restrictions on visits have been in place during national lockdown to protect vulnerable residents. While coronavirus cases remain high, the number of infections is falling. The UK’s vaccination programme has seen every care home resident offered a jab, with almost 17 million vaccinations carried out in total.
Outdoor, pod and screen visits will be able to continue in line with the published guidance which has been in place during lockdown, meaning there will be chances for residents to see more than just the one person they nominate.
All care home providers not experiencing an outbreak will be asked to follow the updated guidance and continue to work together with families and local professionals to ensure visits are possible while continuing to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
The government will continue to provide free tests and PPE to support the scheme and has already distributed £1.1 billion from the infection control fund, an additional £149 million to support rapid testing and visits and £120 million to increase staffing.
- The person nominated will remain unchanged while this step is in place
- There will be discretion for care homes to allow more than one named visitor in exceptional circumstances
- Home testing of single, named visitors will not be allowed during the start of the scheme but will be reviewed
- Hand-holding is allowed but named visitors will be asked to avoid any closer contact
- Vaccination is not mandatory and will not be a condition of visiting
- In terms of visiting out, the rules and guidance will remain unchanged at this stage
- Visiting will be suspended during local outbreaks in individual homes
- Further guidance will be published before the launch of the single, named visitor scheme on 8 March
The vaccine has been shown to be both safe and effective, and the top priority is rolling out the vaccine to those who need it the most as quickly as possible. By the end of January, the NHS had reached our every care home resident and we have now offered a vaccine to everyone in the top four priority groups, which ensuring the most vulnerable in society are protected first, as the top four groups account for 88% of COVID deaths.
It is fantastic progress that over 17 million people across the UK have already taken up the offer of a vaccine and uptake across cohorts has been strong. We had assumed uptake would be around 75% based on previous vaccination programmes but in fact, so far, over 90% of care home residents and over-75-year-olds in England have chosen to receive their first dose of the vaccine. (Correct as of 13th Feb 2021.) But we must not be complacent; we know that there is variation in the level of uptake across different geographies and communities and we will not rest until everyone who is eligible is protected.
I understand that antipsychotics have been prescribed for some patients with dementia for some time, though only in cases where they are at risk of harming themselves or others, or if they are severely distressed, and alongside other treatments or activities. The risks and benefits of taking an antipsychotic should always be discussed with the person with dementia, where possible, and any carer.