On Thursday 27 May, Sir David Amess spoke in the debate on Dementia Action Week. Sir David called for cross-party talks into adult social care reform with particular attention paid towards not forcing individuals to give up their homes to pay for dementia healthcare.
Sir David Amess said:
The House is at its best on occasions such as this when we can demonstrate that we are members of the human race. We have heard some very heartfelt stories. Dementia is a heart-breaking illness for those who suffer from it and for the family and friends of the person so afflicted. It is very stressful when someone is admitted to hospital and those they know are told that they have dementia, and it turns out to be a urine infection.
With the coronavirus pandemic dominating the headlines for over a year, many other health conditions that existed before and continue to do harm have been somewhat put aside. The issues surrounding dementia can be loosely broken up into two concerns: the health complications and the financial structures. We should not accept dementia as simply a part of growing old. It is a real issue, and is the leading cause of death in England. Currently 850,000 people are living with the condition in the UK.
Our wonderful national health service staff and health professionals have done a brilliant job of delivering the successful vaccination programme, but people with dementia have been worst hit by the pandemic, accounting for over a quarter of all covid-19 deaths. The percentage of those in Southend West—we have the highest number of centenarians in the country—with the condition is higher than the average for England, and the east of England and Essex. This is not a health problem that we can ignore; it is a serious local and national issue, although we have some wonderful care homes in Southend that are doing magnificent work on dementia.
Dementia is so different from many other health problems because the NHS does not always cover it free of charge. Our party’s manifesto committed to seeking cross-party consensus to bring forward reform proposals, and stated that
“no one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it.”
I have received emails from worried constituents with financial concerns about paying for their own healthcare or for that of elderly family members. I am pleased that reform of the social care system was mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and I hope that the Government ensure that no one has to lose their principal private family residence and their savings to pay for healthcare.
For individuals, relying on the carer’s allowance to support their family members struggling with dementia is proving extremely difficult during the coronavirus pandemic and an adjustment is needed. A financial barrier is stopping people receiving life-saving care and attention, and that needs changing. I urge the Government to implement cross-party talks and explain what steps will be taken to ensure that dementia healthcare is affordable for all. I have previously raised that issue in the Chamber and in questions.
Dementia is the only condition of the top 10 leading causes of death in the UK for which there is no treatment to prevent, cure or slow its progression. The rapid development of treatments and vaccines for covid-19 showed us what science can achieve with political will and the right resources and collaborations.