Every Hospital and Care Home to Have Experts in Dementia

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Government acts to tackle scourge of old age Health Secretary admits NHS treatment is 'patchy'

Every care home and hospital in England must appoint a doctor specifically tasked with ensuring dementia sufferers are properly looked after, the Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced, admitting that current NHS treatment is "patchy".

GPs will be trained to spot the early signs of dementia, he said, and so-called "memory clinics" will be set up in every town and city over the next five years to aid rapid diagnosis of deteriorating mental health. "Dementia advisers" will be trained to work with families, he added.

Mr Johnson said it was unacceptable that two-thirds of patients with the condition are not diagnosed early enough for doctors to provide effective treatment: "This needs to come out of the dark and the shadows. For many people, diagnosis can be difficult, care can be patchy and, without adequate support, families can be under huge stress. All that must change."

The Health Secretary pledged 60m during 2009-10 and another 90m the following calendar year. The sums were instantly challenged as inadequate to provide facilities for every primary care trust, amid fears that tighter public spending could jeopardise mental health strategy.

With an ageing population, the prevalence of dementia is forecast to rise rapidly. Around 600,000 people suffer from it and this is predicted to rise to a million by 2025, and to 1.4 million within 30 years, barring a medical breakthrough.

The Government estimates that dementia costs the economy around 17bn a year, and that this will rise to more than 50bn in three decades.

The Care Services minister, Phil Hope, said: "If we diagnose earlier, we can intervene earlier. One third of patients are never actually formally diagnosed - many people don't get a diagnosis for three years. …