An Irish academic has slammed the NHS for ‘foolish’ spending decisions that puts dementia sufferers to the bottom of the pile.
Figures show a striking imbalance in funds spent on dementia patients by health trusts across the country – with one primary care trust spending just 10p per dementia patient per day.
The report, featured in GP Magazine, claims local health providers are refusing to allocate more money to dementia care, despite Government directives ordering it be made a priority.
Dr Mary Tilki, who recently published research on the cognitive disorder and how it affects Britain’s Irish community, claims the lack of funding is detrimental to sufferers, their families and ultimately the government which ends up paying more in the long run.
“It’s not a shock to see this devastating lack of funding revealed,” Dr Tilki, Chair of the Federation of Irish Societies, said. “It’s what we thought they were doing. It is obvious there is not nearly enough NHS money spent on providing services for the older community.
“Frankly I think it’s foolish. They make these spending decisions which ignore dementia sufferers’ needs, but they end up costing the government and its local health trusts more money in the long-run.
“Without early detection and treatment the cost of looking after someone with severe or advanced dementia are much higher. Crisis care always costs more – their money would always be better spent on pre-emptive services.”
Dr Tilki’s views were echoed by Eileen Taylor, Family Carers Service Manager at Irish Community Services in Greenwich, who provide non-Government funded services to Irish dementia sufferers and their carers and families.
“Dementia should be as important in terms of funding as cancer, diabetes, heart and lung diseases,” she said.
“Early detection is the key and that can only be done by educating the public – so spending money on providing information in schools, collages, public places and the media is important.”
She added: “The Irish community has a significantly high rate of dementia and pre-senile dementia brought on by a variety of different illnesses, which makes the need for better funding even more important for us.
“By having a diagnosis our community can then access services from Irish Community Services and other organisations. This does not just have a positive impact on the person themselves, but also on the family carer who can access culturally sensitive support and practical help.”
GP Magazine’s investigation into dementia services revealed huge discrepancies in service investment and patient access from data provided by 134 primary care organisations across Britain following a Freedom of Information Act request.
It found that 7.5 per cent of PCOs still do not commission dedicated memory assessment services and funding for services is patchy.
Of 54 PCO’s which provided financial information, spending for each person with dementia varied intensely; with NHS Barnsley spending £802 per year per person with dementia, compared with just £38 in NHS Nottinghamshire County – or roughly equal to 10p per patient per day.
Dr Tilki hopes the publication of the shocking statistics will propel the government to increase funding for organisations dealing with those suffering from the cognitive disorder.
“The Irish community is particularly vulnerable to a lack of funding in this area,” she said. “We have such a high incidence of dementia in the community – and I don’t think any of the Irish organisations offering dementia services are in receipt of government funds.
“That is where I would like to see the money going – to these hardworking organisations across the country providing cultural understanding while dealing with people suffering with dementia.”