Debate on Living with Dementia

Today, I spoke in the debate on living with dementia, highlighting the plight of not just those who live with the condition themselves but their carers and families.


Given the challenges they face, I asked if the Minister could provide an outline of what the Government intended to do for those with dementia and their carers.  I was pleased to hear in response that the Minister “welcomed [the] vision of making Westminster the first dementia-friendly Parliament”, going on to say that she would do everything possible to support that endeavour.

9.44 am


Bill Grant


It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I thank the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) for securing this important debate, in conjunction with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) and the Backbench Business Committee.


Hon. Members should be dismayed to learn that, according to a recent survey, 98% of the 2,521 respondents felt that those with dementia were treated differently from people with other health conditions or disabilities. Some even found that employers would not make reasonable adjustments to the workplace. Those respondents believed that they were discriminated against, facing unnecessary stigma and often negative attitudes. It is a worrying statistic given that, apparently, 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia. Indeed, 70% of care home patients live with the condition.


Media coverage of the condition tends to occur only when it befalls a prominent person in public life, when relatives have the courage to publish their experiences, as the TV presenter Sally Magnusson in Scotland did in relation to her mother, or when a member of the public sadly goes missing and the police issue an urgent appeal for help in locating them. It is important that we raise wider and more regular awareness of a condition that appears to be on the increase throughout the United Kingdom.


David Simpson


I apologise for being late to this debate. Last November, my father passed away. He was a sufferer from dementia and, while he got fantastic care, we found as a family that there was a lack of staff with the experience to diagnose dementia, because there are different stages and diagnoses. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one area that is forgotten about is young carers, who have to dedicate a lot of their time to looking after their parents while still keeping up their studies? We seem to forget about them.


Bill Grant


The hon. Gentleman is right that we often seem to overlook the young carers. In my family, we have experience of hosting my mother-in-law. I was very fond of her, but we had two or three months of hosting her, and despite having two daughters who are nurses, what a challenge that was in my life and that of my wife. We thought we knew about dementia, but we knew nothing about it until we walked for several months with my mother-in-law, who I was very fond of.​


When I served as a councillor in South Ayrshire, one of my colleagues, Councillor Hugh Hunter, and others were active in ensuring that the needs of dementia sufferers and their carers were to the fore. In his council area, in 2016, a dementia-friendly project was launched, with the laudable aim of building a community that supports people with dementia, enabling sufferers to remain in their community for as long as practicable and reducing the stigma. Indeed, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), which borders mine, is the Carlton Hotel, one of the first in Scotland to provide a dementia-friendly bedroom. I think she and I would both agree that that is delightful, and I give credit to that hotel and others that do the same.


In 2015, the UK Government launched the Dementia 2020 challenge, a vision for dementia care, support, awareness and research, which includes awareness training for NHS and care staff. I understand research spending is around £60 million a year to 2020, but not beyond. Four years on, I wonder whether the Minister might provide us with an update and an outline of what the future might hold for those with dementia and—equally importantly, as was said earlier—their carers?


In particular, I am sure sufferers and carers would be grateful for more detail on the proposed Green Paper on a new social care policy, especially the Alzheimer’s Society’s desire for a dementia fund to afford financial support for the very real additional costs associated with dementia treatment and care. An update on the Accelerated Access Collaborative introduced last year, which enables patients to benefit from rapid uptake products, breakthrough medicines and technologies with the greatest potential to change lives, would also be welcome. I know an update would be gratefully received by many of my constituents and others elsewhere in the United Kingdom.


I very much welcome the fact that mental capacity legislation should enhance safeguards against deprivation of liberty and ensure that those living with dementia have a person to advocate on their behalf. However, the Government could further assist by making form filling easier and considering whether there is truly a constant need for reassessment, given that dementia is sadly a progressive condition for which there is currently no effective cure.


All our Governments and other organisations must ensure that those living with dementia are able to do so with dignity, respect and, most importantly, compassionate care, to remain safely independent for as long as is reasonably practicable. The Alzheimer’s Society’s mantra that everyone affected by dementia should feel part of—not apart from—society sums the situation up. It is to be commended for encouraging more than 2 million people to sign up as Dementia Friends, and its informative website is truly well worth a visit.


During Dementia Action Week last month, I belatedly became aware that some stores in Ayr—a town in my constituency—such as Specsavers, have several Dementia Friends on their teams. Hopefully this small step this will be a growing trend in retail, hospitality and, equally importantly, transport throughout the UK, to extend that hand to those living with dementia who need that wee bit of extra help.​