NHS 'to grind to halt' with dementia warns professor

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Media captionConsultant Debbie Wales said the patients would have been better treated at home

The NHS will "grind to a halt" unless more is done to help care for dementia patients in the community, Wales' only professor of geriatrics has warned.

A quarter of patients in district general hospital beds in Wales suffer from dementia and other conditions.

Memory clinics in England spend twice as much on staff for each new patient as they do in Wales, an audit found.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford said a "national approach" to dementia services was needed.

But Prof Anthony Bayer, who led the recent audit of the NHS Memory Services in Wales, said: "If we don't do anything then the whole system is going to grind to a halt."

He compared the amount of money spent on patients in Wales with those in England, and found an average of double the amount spent on providing staff in the English clinics.

Wales also had the worst diagnosis rates in the UK.

'Endless taskforces'

The professor acknowledged the Welsh government was providing help for dementia patients but added: "That's not to say it's enough".

Dementia services in Wales were "very patchy", he said, with good services in one area contrasting with a lack of them just 10 miles away across a health authority border.

"Perhaps there's a sort of postcode lottery of dementia management developing," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"There are endless taskforces and steering groups and visions, but perhaps turning that into action for the 45,000 people with dementia and their relatives in Wales is so far lagging a bit behind."

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Media captionChris Roberts suffers from dementia

Case study

Chris Roberts, 53, from Denbighshire, has dementia while his wife Jayne is also dealing with her mother's dementia.

"The biggest reaction I get at my age talking about [having dementia] is disbelief," he said.

"People don't want to believe it themselves because they would be admitting they could also get an illness that could lead to dementia - I wish I could disbelieve it."

Prof Bayer said there must be more responsibility across the board.

"It should be really every nurse on every surgical ward, doctors at the front door of the hospitals, GPs, receptionists," he said.

"All the NHS staff have to realise that, increasingly in the future, dementia is going to be the bread and butter of their work for a lot of the time."

Health Minister Mark Drakeford said it should be left to individual health boards to provide services but added: "We need a new push on making sure that we have a more national approach to the way services are meted out, I think that is true."

However he warned: "The money available to the Welsh government - and therefore the money we are able to invest in public services - is reducing year on year just as demand is rising.

"It would be absolutely wrong of me simply to say in a glib way money can be found to address this problem against every other problem we have."

Week in Week Out: Who Will Care For Mum, Dad or Me? BBC One Wales, Tuesday, 21 October 22:35 BST

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