Jeremy Hunt's dementia plans

Jeremy Hunt Photo: PA

The Health Secretary will today outline his ambition to make England the best place in Europe to grow old.

Jeremy Hunt is expected to say that improving care for dementia sufferers is one of his top priorities.

In his second speech as Health Secretary, Mr Hunt will tell the National Children's and Adults' Services Conference in Eastbourne, East Sussex, that dementia is one of the "biggest threats" to society.

"We've all seen the reports - of people with dementia being criminally abused by their care workers or drugged up with a chemical cosh just so a care assistant can get a good night's sleep," he is expected to say.

"These may be extreme, isolated events but they highlight a culture where dementia is stigmatised and where those with dementia are not valued. It is not acceptable. It is not good enough. It must and it will change.

"We have to face facts. As a society, dementia is one of the biggest threats we will face in the 21st century.

"It will affect us all - whether it's someone we know, someone we care for, or even ourselves."

Mr Hunt will also pledge £50 million to help hospitals and care homes create more dementia-friendly environments.

The funding will be used to create calming surroundings which will help avoid confusion.

The money could be used for hi-tech sensory rooms or specially adapted outdoor spaces, or it could be used for simple measures such as creating large print signs or providing photos of local scenes from years gone by to help people feel connected to their past.

Research by The King's Fund suggests that cluttered ward layouts and poor signage in hospitals and care homes are the top causes of confusion and distress in people with dementia.

Anna Dixon, director of policy at The King's Fund, said: "Our work with teams in hospitals and care homes demonstrates that it is possible to transform care and improve health and well-being for people with dementia by creating better, more appropriate care environments.

"By putting the specific needs of people with dementia first in the way we design wards and care homes it's possible to make a very big difference to people living with dementia, their families and the staff who support them."

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society. said: "Whether it's a sunny day or calming decor, the environment around us has a real impact on our quality of life. This is especially true for people with dementia who may be experiencing sensory difficulties or may become confused in unfamiliar places.

"Designs that connect people with their past and promote a personalised care approach to help reduce anxiety and confusion can be particularly beneficial.

"Two-thirds of people in care homes have some form of dementia and numbers of those with the condition are soaring so delivering quality care across the board is vital."

Local areas can bid to receive part of the funding for their services over the next few months, with the adaptations expected to begin in April next year.

Mr Hunt told ITV1's Daybreak: "This is one of the biggest challenges we face. This year for the first time we have more pensioners than children in the country and dementia has been this kind of elephant in the room that we've known about but not wanted to talk about.

"By 2020 we'll have one million people who have dementia. It's obviously a very big pressure for them, but also for their families, for their carers, and we have got to have a very big change.

"Today's announcement is really the start. We've got to do a lot more."