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  1. ITV Report

'Urgent social care crisis' as dementia cases in South West rapidly rise

Fears are growing over what's being called a 'social care crisis', as the number of people diagnosed with dementia across the South West has risen by a quarter in the past five years, according to the NHS.

The government launched an initiative to increase the diagnosis rate of dementia in 2012. Back then, it was estimated that less than half of those living with the condition had been diagnosed.

Dementia cases in Somerset have seen one of the highest increases - of 36%. Credit: ITV West Country
£35 bn
Dementia care costs the UK just under £35 billion each year.
2/3
Two-thirds of the cost of dementia care is taken on by families instead of the government.
33%
Increase in the number of people on the dementia register.

Dementia research currently receives less funding than cancer research.

Healthcare professionals say this needs to change.

Michael Staunton is now the primary carer for his wife Avril. Credit: ITV West Country

We need to look at this as a society. But within our society, we have to stop breaking down families and telling them that actually it's somebody else's responsibility because no government can cope with this. In my view, communities and families are actually the answer. Yes, helped and enhanced by government education and government assistance. But it's got to be a whole society that actually works and tackles this problem.

– Michael Staunton, primary carer

The Alzheimer's society are warning due to a lack of proper social care provision, our health service is picking up the strain.

We are absolutely in a social care crisis. We talk about the numbers that this cost the NHS in terms of avoidable admissions to A&E - more than half the people living with dementia this year will find themselves in accident and emergency, often several times, for really not very good reasons. They are reasons which could all be avoided, such as a fall or dehydration. So we are absolutely living in a social care crisis and it really is urgent now that the chancellor takes that positive step to invest in social care in March this year.

We're calling for eight billion pounds to be invested now, and for cross party talks to start immediately to get a long term solution to the social care crisis.

– Sally Copley, Alzheimer's Society

Dame Barbara Windsor bought the issue to the nation's attention back in 2014 when she revealed she'd been diagnosed with dementia.

More than five years on, speaking at a recent ITV event her husband and carer Scott Mitchell says that still little has been done to tackle the scale of the problem.

Dame Barbara Windsor revealed her dementia diagnosis in 2014.

It is a total lack of social care that needs addressing very urgently. It is not right that people with dementia, Alzheimer's, the whole banger, it's not right that they are left literally to fend for themselves with their families. We are all responsible to do something about this.

– Scott Mitchell

Spotting dementia in a timely way means people get the care they need. Thanks to concerted efforts nationally and locally the NHS is now diagnosing more people than ever before, beating the target we set ourselves.

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a blueprint for older people's care and makes early diagnosis and treatment for major health problems a top priority.

– NHS England spokesperson

The UK will have more than one million people living with dementia by the end of this decade.