The Times headline on 21 September suggested 1 in 3 Britons born this year will be at risk of developing dementia unless research produces new treatments. On an inside page, the same paper reported the looming crisis in the provision of residential care places. Take the two stories together to see the failures of current public policy.
The dementia diagnosis forecasts are a call to arms from the Alzheimers Association charity, in an effort to attract a greater share of medical research funding to dementia. Other media coverage recently highlighted the extent to which those who start out studying dementia issues now drift into other fields of medical research because of the lack of funding for dementia work. We need to reverse this trend.
The issue of the supply of care places is about the here and now. According to figures published by the National Care Association, England currently has 420,000 care beds. Future projections point to a need for more like 740,000 a few years ahead. Yet the immediate outlook is for the loss of existing places, blamed largely on the failure of public policy for the funding of care.
This column has commented regularly on those policy failures. One small straw in the wind to encourage the idea of positive changes in public policy concerns new rulings on home care visits. NICE is apparently about to lay down a 30 minute minimum for such visits. This is a welcome response to recent publicity about inadequate service deliverered by carers who are not allocated sufficient time to fulfil all the duties which should properly be covered.
But don’t break out the champagne just yet. Unfortunately, NICE has no influence on local authority budgets, which are the primary source of funding for such home care visits. So once again we see the prospect of improved rules but declining resources to fund them. The perverse result could be a decline in the number of organisations offering home care service, because a business model already under severe strain becomes completely unviable.
Another fine mess, to quote Oliver Hardy.