The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

Government failing on dementia care

Audit points to a lack of 'robust' implementation

OnMedica Staff

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The government has failed to meet its pledges for dementia care, according to a damning report published today by the National Audit Office.

"The Department of Health stated in October 2007 that dementia was a national priority and brought forward a widely supported strategy in February 2009 to transform the lives of people with dementia. The action however, has not so far matched the rhetoric in terms of urgency," said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, adding: "At the moment this strategy lacks the mechanisms needed to bring about large scale improvements and without these mechanisms it is unlikely that the intended and much needed transformation of services will be delivered within the strategy’s five year timeframe."

Although the audit report described the Department of Health's strategy as "ambitious and comprehensive" it said its approach to implementation had not been sufficiently robust.

The strategy, Living Well with Dementia, was published in February 2009 but because of the time, dementia was not included in the Department’s tier 1 Vital Signs indicators for the NHS, through which it monitors performance.

"Achieving transformation in the proposed five years will be very challenging," said the NAO report.

"Changes at a local level are taking place slowly because local leadership on the issue has still to be developed and there is no formal performance monitoring of progress built into the system."

The report also questioned the Department's ability to fund the strategy warning that it was likely to cost more than the estimated £1.9 billion over ten years.

"The Department also expects implementation of the strategy to be mostly funded through efficiency savings arising from the acute hospital and long-term care sectors. However, this will be difficult to achieve without joined-up, well-informed commissioning," it stated.

Moreover, it warned that there was no basic training for healthcare professionals on how to understand and work with people with dementia and noted that while "strong leadership" was key to improving service this was not yet in place in local NHS and social care delivery organisations.

Care Services Minister Phil Hope welcomed the report but said it was not true that the implementation plan was off-course.

"We are in the first year of our ambitious five year National Dementia Strategy - change will not happen immediately," he said.

"There is still much more to be done and we are working hard to put the plans outlined in the strategy into place." 

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470