Focus on dementia

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HEALTH chiefs have pledged to do all they can to raise awareness about dementia with officers predicting the numbers are likely to rocket by 60 per cent over the next 15 years.

Estimates reveal there are between 5,000 and 6,000 people diagnosed with dementia currently living in Hartlepool.

There are a number of services to help and care for people with dementia including a community physio service, home care and day services but officials on the shadow health and wellbeing board say there needs to be more awareness.

Alan Foster, chief executive of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is a lot going on but still a lot more to do but I think we have made a good start.

“We are up for the challenge.”

The term dementia is used to describe a set of symptoms which include loss of memory, mood change and problems with communication and reasoning.

These symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is progressive and at the moment there are no cures.

Officers say the main thrust of efforts to support people with dementia is to delay the onset and early diagnosis and treatment is “key”.

Independent councillor Cath Hill said there is a “huge job to be done” and said it was the board’s responsibility to help raise awareness.

Phil Hornsby, head of service at the council, said: “The expected 60 per cent increase in people with dementia by 2030 is a major issue and should be seen as a key priority for commissioning services and support.”

He added: “It is about raising awareness and increasing screening and not to stigmatise it.”

In 2009 the government launched a national strategy to improve health and social care services for everyone with dementia, which aims to improve awareness, earlier diagnosis and intervention and quality of care.

Meanwhile, there is also the Dementia Collaborative is a joint initiative including the Trust, Hartlepool Borough Council and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, and it aims to ensure commissioning and delivery of services for patients with dementia are of the “highest quality”.

The idea is to work together, support rigorous testing of new ideas, training staff and raising awareness.