COLUMN by Crawley MP Henry Smith: We are leading fight against dementia

Dementia is undoubtedly a dreadful condition affecting a large proportion of people and it is essential that we tackle this problem whilst raising awareness throughout society.

I am delighted that Crawley has taken the initiative on leading the fight against dementia in establishing the Dementia Friendly Crawley programme, a two year scheme led by Crawley Clinical Commissioning Group and Crawley Dementia Alliance to transform Crawley into a dementia friendly town. The Department of Health have just awarded this new project with the funding it needs to get started.

There are approximately 1,200 people in Crawley already diagnosed with dementia, with many more living with the condition undiagnosed. I fully applaud and support the work of the Dementia Friendly Crawley programme which has the ambition to deliver a broad network of support to those suffering from dementia and their families and develop the impressive work already done by the Crawley Dementia Alliance. This involves improving their health and wellbeing and supporting sufferers so that they remain independent for longer, thus reducing social isolation. Day-to-day tasks can become difficult and the programme will aim to provide practical solutions to such problems by working with supportive communities. Significantly, they are committed to raising the profile of dementia throughout the community, awareness of which is worryingly low nationally. I believe that Crawley has the community spirit and drive to ensure that sufferers of dementia continue to play a valued role in the town.

Worryingly it is estimated that by 2020 there will be nearly one million people in the UK with dementia, rising from the current level of 670,000 to affect one in three people over the age of 65. Currently only 42 per cent of sufferers are diagnosed with around 400,000 unaware that they are living with the condition and this needs to be addressed.

Crawley’s vision is a response to the Prime Minister’s Dementia challenge scheme aimed at ensuring that dementia becomes a central health drive. A project, announced last week by David Cameron, outlines that one million people are to be trained as Dementia Friends by 2015. This scheme will provide people with guidance on how to spot the condition and provide support to sufferers.  Members of the public will be offered one-hour training sessions in community centres, church halls and workplaces designed to help them understand the impact of the disease and offer them practical ways to help sufferers. Subsequently it will act as a stepping stone to those who wish to volunteer to help those people in their community diagnosed with dementia.

The Dementia Friends scheme is the latest element of a wider Government push to do more to tackle the devastating condition, set out by the Prime Minister in his ‘Challenge on Dementia’ in March with the important aim of making the UK a world leader in dementia care and research. This Government is making its claim to fight against dementia by providing £2.4 million in funding over the next three years and almost £10 million for dementia research.

I am proud that Crawley has taken the lead on such an important issue.