Health services to publish outcomes on dementia

Local authorities and the NHS will have to publish details of how well they are delivering on key outcomes for dementia sufferers, including reducing the use of anti-psychotic medication, the government said today.

The plans are part of the revised Dementia Strategy Implementation Plan, which identifies cutting the use of the so-called “chemical cosh”, used in care homes to sedate people who become angry or distressed as a result of their illness, as one of its four priorities.

Last year, a review ordered by the Department of Health found that as many as 144,000 patients were being given anti-psychotic drugs unnecessarily, with excessive use of the medication causing an estimated 1,800 deaths and almost as many strokes among older people every year. The Labour government promised at the time to reduce the numbers being given “chemical restraints”.

Other priorities in the revised plan are good-quality early diagnosis and intervention, improved care in general hospitals and helping people with dementia live well in care homes.

The care services minister, Paul Burstow, said: “Dementia is one of the most important issues that we face as our population ages. We spend £8.2bn a year caring for those affected. In this tough economic climate, we must be realistic.

“It’s not about extra resources but how we can think smarter using the resources we already have. The implementation plan reflects the coalition government’s priorities. It’s about getting resource to the people that need them rather than it being tied up in backroom bureaucracy. Local organisations will be expected to publish how they are delivering on quality outcomes so that they can be held to account by local people.”

The interim chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Ruth Sutherland, said: “This plan is an exciting opportunity to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It fully recognises the dementia crisis facing us today and signals that dementia must be made a priority. We now need to put these plans into action.

“Investing sensibly in dementia now will improve people’s lives and could potentially save hundreds of millions of pounds. As a million people develop dementia in the next 10 years everyone has a role to play.”