Former First Minister calls for ‘urgent rethink’ on advanced Dementia care

Henry McLeish and Henry Simmons from Alzheimer Scotland welcoming this major new report.
Henry McLeish and Henry Simmons from Alzheimer Scotland welcoming this major new report.
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A FORMER First Minister has called for an “urgent rethink” in the way care for those with advanced dementia is delivered as part of a wide ranging new report.

Henry McLeish said “the complex needs associated with advanced dementia have not been fully understood or recognised as health or nursing care” and called on local health authorities to do more for those with the illness.

The Fair Dementia Care Commission report added those living with advanced dementia to be given the same access to healthcare as those suffering from other terminal conditions.

The Commission was established by Alzheimer Scotland to consider the inequality in access to health care and the disproportionate impact of social care charges faced by people with advanced dementia, their families, and carers in Scotland.

Mr McLeish, 70, who has chaired the organisation for the last two years, said: “As we discover more about dementia and develop a better understanding of the disease processes which cause dementia, it is crucial that we reflect on how we respond to the needs of people living with what is a progressive terminal illness.”

“We must work towards ensuring that people living and dying with advanced dementia can have equity of access to the health care they need on an equal basis to those who have other progressive terminal illnesses, and which is free at the point of delivery.”

He added: “On behalf of Alzheimer Scotland and the members of this commission I ask that Scottish Government accept and act on the recommendations set out in this report so that we can work towards delivering fair dementia care for people with advanced dementia.”

The report, entitled ‘Fair Dementia Care for People with Advanced Dementia,’ issued a series of reccommendations to improve Alzheimer’s care, including a commitment from The Scottish Government, COSLA and Integrated Joint Boards to “ending the current lack of transparency, complexity and variability in current non-residential care charging provisions across Scotland” and “investigating the costs of implementing appropriate and free health care for those living, and dying, with advanced dementia”.

More than 90,000 people currently live with the condition in Scotland, with the disease accounting for around 11 per cent of deaths across the country.

Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “Within our current policy and practice construct there is no evident understanding of advanced dementia. The changing nature of individual needs do not appear to have been understood and it would seem clear that once diagnosed with dementia, people are boxed into an ongoing social care construct which they subsequently pay for on an ongoing basis.”

He added: “Whilst we understand that it will require significant effort to transform our system, we ask the Scottish Government lead the way by accepting the recommendations in this report and commit to starting the journey towards delivering fair dementia care for those with advanced dementia in Scotland.”