Alzheimer’s Society today (Tuesday 6 August) announced the appointment of national treasure Dame Barbara Windsor and her husband Scott Mitchell as Ambassadors, coinciding with Dame Barbara’s 82nd birthday.
The announcement comes as the new Ambassadors launch the Society’s public letter to the new Prime Minister calling on him to sort out dementia care once and for all. Barbara and Scott are asking the public to join them in signing it before its delivery to No.10 Downing Street in early September.
One million people in the UK will have dementia by 2021. Dementia is the biggest health and care challenge facing us today – yet the system is in disarray, completely unprepared to support the growing numbers of people receiving a dementia diagnosis. People with dementia and their families often have to spend typical care costs of £100,000, and too many receive inadequate care. Since March 2017 people with dementia have spent more than 1 million unnecessary days stuck in hospital beds, despite being well enough to go home, at a cost to the NHS of over £400 million.
Since 2016, Alzheimer’s Society’s Fix Dementia Care campaign has been calling on the Government to provide a long-term funding solution to end the social care crisis. Government plans have been delayed and we now need an immediate investment in an NHS Dementia Fund, to address the most urgent needs, improving quality of care for people with dementia across the country.
Not only are people with dementia treated differently to those with cancer or diabetes, they are also treated differently to those with other social care needs, facing a double whammy as their care is often 15% more expensive than standard social care. This ‘dementia tax’ places a disproportionate and unacceptable financial burden on individuals and their families.
Dame Barbara, diagnosed with dementia in 2014, and her husband Scott have led the charge behind the Virgin Money London Marathon for Dementia Revolution, a unique ground-breaking campaign formed by Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, helping to raise over £3 million towards dementia research. The iconic actor and her husband have become strong supporters of Alzheimer’s Society, and are thrilled to become Ambassadors for the cause, continuing the fight against dementia.
Speaking about their experience, Scott Mitchell said: “The last few years have been really hard for both Barbara and I as we’ve had to get used to dementia being in our lives. Alzheimer’s Society has shown us there is life after dementia, and we want to do our bit to make sure no one faces dementia alone.
“Over the last four months I have had the honour of meeting other people with dementia and their families, and I’ve learnt so much about the challenges they are facing up and down the country. Hearing their stories and seeing the true state of our social care system has shown me how people, who aren’t as fortunate to be in the same position as myself and Barbara financially, are facing a constant battle to get what they need. I want to do everything I can to help them.
“The Society’s open letter to our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tackle the social care crisis is strongly supported by Barbara and me. We encourage the fantastic UK public to give their support by signing this letter. It’s time to end the battle people with dementia and their families are facing across the country.”
Dame Barbara added: “I am absolutely delighted to become an Ambassador for this wonderful charity, who are helping so many people living with dementia… like me. We’re lucky to have amazing support but my heart goes out to the many, many people who are really struggling to get the care they so desperately need. Please join us – let’s do everything we can to sort this out.”
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Barbara is a true, much-loved cultural icon, and speaking out about her experiences has shone as a beacon for others with dementia. We’re so proud to have Barbara and Scott join us as Ambassadors. What they have helped us achieve over the last year is astounding.
“Barbara and Scott are now lending their voice to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by dementia, struggling to access vital care or facing unfair costs – just because they happened to develop dementia and not some other disease.
“That’s why we’re urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Government to invest in an NHS Dementia Fund, and to sort out long term social care reform. It’s time to end the dementia tax that‘s preventing people from getting the care they need and deserve.”
Join Alzheimer’s Society’s Fix Dementia Care campaign and sign the open letter at alzheimers.org.uk/fixdementiacare
As part of the Fix Dementia Care campaign, Alzheimer’s Society is calling for a £2.4bn Dementia Fund, mapped within plans to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan and then established in the upcoming Spending Review. This will end the dementia tax, bringing fairness into the system and improving quality of care while a long-term funding solution is sought.