What action is Barbara Windsor's public letter demanding for dementia?

Dementia affects nearly one million Britons. Credit: PA

Former EastEnders actress Barbara Windsor has delivered a letter to Downing Street on Monday, calling for more to be done for dementia sufferers.

The 82-year-old has avoided the public limelight since she was diagnosed with the Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.

Ms Windsor earlier recorded a thank you video to everyone who has supported the campaign and signed the letter.

"Thank you all so much for showing your support in signing the letter to our new Prime Minister. It means so much. Let's make this happen, and fix dementia care," she said.

So what exactly is the disease which affects nearly one million Britons and what is the public petition she is handing over at Number 10 calling for?

What is dementia?

Dementia is a catch term for a range of different progressive conditions which affects the brain, according to Dementiauk.org.

There are more than 200 different types of the disease. The five most common are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.

The disease impacts the brain's functions by interrupting the way nerve cells interact and send signals to each other.

Dementia damages the nerve cells in the brain so the messages can't be sent properly.

This causes different symptoms for different people. Those aged over 65 are more at risk of developing dementia.

What are the symptoms of dementia?

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Memory loss or problems - people may struggle to remember people, names, places or become more forgetful

  • Cognitive function - people may have difficulty getting places and concentration may be effected

  • Speech and hearing - Reading and writing may also become more challenging, which could impact on a person's mood

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia in the UK. Credit: PA

Alzheimer's, the most common type of dementia in the UK, is caused by changes to the structure of the brain.

This comes from a build-up of proteins, which damages the way messages can be transmitted.

The disease can develop over time and worsen, affecting a person's memory, communication, word finding skills and other cognitive functions.

Medication is available which may help the sufferer, but there is currently no cure for the disease.

How does dementia affect people in the UK?

Alzheimer's Society claims the disease is "the biggest health and care challenge facing us today" but that the care systems in place is "completely unprepared to support the growing numbers of people receiving a dementia diagnosis".

They claim it costs £100,000 to care for a person with dementia, which is 15 per cent more expensive than standard social care.

The group says dementia costs the UK economy more than £26 billion a year. This is the equivalent of more than £30,000 per person with dementia.

Jordan and her family are just one in hundreds who desperately need more support.

Her husband Daniel was diagnosed with dementia aged 30 just after their twins - Jasper and Lola were born.

She told ITV News: "You get diagnosed with dementia and suddenly you're left to pay for your own care but if Dan was diagnosed with cancer they'd be so much more support and care for him.

"Not just financially or with health but also psychologically, having someone there to guide you through your illness is massive but with dementia there is nothing like that available to you," she added.

In the UK, there are more than 850,000 people living with the disease, but that number is likely to rise to more than a million by 2021.

By 2051, this figure could rise to two million people.

What action does the Alzheimer's Society want?

The letter which Barbara Windsor has delivered to Number 10. Credit: Pool

Alzheimer's Society is calling for a long-term funding solution to dementia care, as well as an immediate £2.4billion NHS Dementia Fund.

The group is calling for the government to plug the gap in funding if the money cannot be generated from the NHS.

Alzheimer's Society said dementia care is costing hospitals and other NHS resources £570m each year.

More than 50,000 people have signed the letter to Boris Johnson, which will be delivered by Barbara Windsor on September 2.

What is the government doing for dementia sufferers?

The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition launched a published a paper in 2015, stating that it hoped the UK would become world-leaders in dementia care and research by 2020.

Former prime minister David Cameron wrote at the time: "By 2020 I want England to be the best country in the world for dementia care and support and for people with dementia, their carers and families to live; and the best place in the world to undertake research into dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases."

It goes on to add different approaches to help Britain become better at dealing with dementia care.

Cameron added: "As we look to the future, it is clear that we all have a part to play. This is not just about funding from Government, or research by scientists, but understanding and compassion from all of us. Together, we can transform dementia care, support and research."

What is the government response?

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We want England to be the best country in the world to live with dementia and since 2012 we have spent £433 million to accelerate progress in early detection, improved treatment, prevention and care.

"We have given local authorities access to nearly £4 billion more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410 million is available for adults and children’s services.

"The prime minister is committed to fixing the social care system and we will outline proposals in due course."