The Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt MP came to see what dementia services are available in Wetherby today (March 19).
The latest in a long line of Cabinet members to visit the town, Mr Hunt spent the afternoon with people living with dementia and local health care professionals.
With this ambition to be the first dementia friendly constituency we can be confident that people with dementia will be treated with respect and understanding and that is really inspiring.Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt MP
With Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke and Wetherby Coun Alan Lamb (Con), he took part in a memory game with clients of Over the Rainbow Care, which provides a day centre in Wetherby Methodist Church.
Afterwards, he took some time to speak to the service’s director Megan Sweeting and Natalie Dobson, as well as representatives from Crossley Street Surgery and Wetherby in Support of the Elderly (WiSE).
Speaking to the Wetherby News, Mr Hunt said: “I wanted to come to Wetherby because Alec Shelbrooke said he wants Elmet and Rothwell to become the first dementia friendly constituency.
“At its most basic that means people with dementia want to lead the normal lives we all do, but it is harder and this is not something the NHS can do on its own.
“With this ambition to be the first dementia friendly constituency we can be confident that people with dementia will be treated with respect and understanding and that is really inspiring, which is why I wanted to come.
“There won’t be a family in Wetherby that isn’t affected one way or another by dementia. What I think is exciting about Alec’s initiative is that it recognises that to transform the lives of people with dementia the NHS needs to do a lot more and we are doing that, but there is something for every single community to think about.
“Everyone has their role to play and it is only when we start changing thinking in society more broadly that people with dementia will have the confidence to do what we take for granted.”
Speaking about the possible funding issues regarding dementia care through the NHS during this time of austerity and restricted budgets, the Health Secretary said taking dementia care into the community is a ‘win win’.
“If you look after people with dementia better they will live at home for longer, leading better lives with their families. If you ignore people with dementia they need to move into care sooner, which is costly.
“And, irrespective of the economic situation, we are a fundamentally decent and compassionate society and we have ignored people with dementia for too long. This is part of bringing it out.”
It has been reported elsewhere that yesterday’s Budget - the last before the general election in May - paid little attention to the NHS, which Mr Hunt said was ‘Labour spin’.
He said: “There was £1b for mental health, which is a complete transformation in care we are going to give to young people with mental health problems who have not been as well looked after as they should be.
“And in the last big financial statement, the autumn Budget, there was an extra £2b for the NHS.
“This government has had to contend with the biggest financial crisis since the Second World War and even Labour was planning to cut the NHS budget, but we said no, and we did that for a very simple reason: we have a rapidly aging population that needs to be treated with dignity and respect, including people with dementia, which is why I am here.”
Succeeding Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, and Minister to the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, Mr Hunt was accompanied by Mr Shelbrooke.
Both took part in the round table discussion about dementia care, its importance, and its future in Wetherby.
Mr Hunt said: “Increasingly Care Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are going to be responsible for all funding, so I have asked them to make sure they can tell use the full health and social care stats for every single individual patient they are responsible for.
“If you give joined up care for people with dementia they would see it would reduce the overall costs and at the minute they can’t see that because it is just another funding request that gets put in.”
Mr Shelbrooke, who recently held a dementia summit, said: “We are trying to make sure that you have a support network there locally, because if you do that actually helps the family as well as the community, and that is so important.
“When I work with Alan what you are looking at there is a Conservative team working together to deliver what we can. It is about making the town a team and the whole constituency a team and making that seamless.
“Today I wanted to highlight the importance of recognising the work the GPs are doing in terms of making the surgery dementia friendly, that is why I brought the CCG to my dementia summit to show that the money the government is putting into dementia prevention research is being backed up on the ground by health professionals and local GPs which is outstanding, like at Crossley Street and Over the Rainbow Care.
“These are serious attempts to try and make people who live with this disease carry on living their lives in the most effective way they can.”
Coun Lamb, who has previously spoken out about the lack of services available for people living with dementia in the town, also took part in discussions.
He said: “With the work that Alec has been doing and that we have been doing together we have managed to work with Crossley Street Surgery to form a project to deliver services much more locally, so we can improve diagnosis in Wetherby so more people can get the help and support they need without having to go to North Yorkshire.
“What Jeremy has been able to see is that by working locally we can really get a much better service for people here.
“We still have issues with being on the boundary and there is a lot of work Leeds City Council needs to do, because some of the response from them has been inadequate so far.”
Dr Ellis Rickwood, GP partner and dementia lead at Crossley Street Surgery, spoke to the Health Secretary about a programme of dementia care at the practice.
He said: “It is an exciting time for GPs but we need to make sure that any service we can provide, that can then be used as a model for elsewhere, has recurring funding.
“With any changes in the primary care I think it is really important to have that certainty about the future of what we are able to provide.”
Later speaking to the Wetherby News he said: “The key points really are about bringing care into GP surgeries, bringing dementia care as a whole out of the hospital environment and into the community, where we can help look after people with dementia and their carers.”
Director at Over the Rainbow Care added: “Our clients were quite excited this morning so it has been nice for them.
“When we spoke to Mr Hunt it was nice to be able to put our experiences across because everybody’s case is different and the government needs a lot of data to be able to tailor people’s care.
“It was also nice for him to be able to see what we do because there is going to be an increasing need for services like this.”
See next week’s Wetherby News (published March 26) for a full report of Mr Hunt’s visit, including comments on health and dementia care from all of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates for Elmet and Rothwell.