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Vital link between social care and health

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Dementia needs urgent support Dementia needs urgent support

As Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony demonstrated, Britain is rightly proud of the NHS. Nurses working in hospitals and in the community touch the lives of the 800,000 people with dementia in the UK every day. What policy makers often fail to appreciate, however, is the vital link between the way we fund social care and the future of the health system.

Dementia care is classed as a social rather than health need. This often means that people with dementia face tens of thousands of pounds in costs for care of variable quality. Hope of full-scale reform of this shocking system seemed dashed when a long awaited White Paper materialised without extra funding.

Against this backdrop, it is encouraging to see reports that the prime minister will implement the Dilnot Commission's care reforms by 2017. Currently, people with assets of just £23,250 are liable for often extortionate care costs.

Implementing the report's recommendations - which included increasing the means testing threshold and capping the total people pay for care - would be a first step to tackling this. Before cracking open the champagne, there are two issues which need to be addressed.

More substance is needed to understand what government is promising. People with dementia have grown used to warm words about this vital issue - concrete detail is needed if we're to be convinced that this time it is for real.

Government also needs to recognise that this issue cannot wait until 2017. The figures are stark: services are desperately underfunded, with a £1.9 billion gap in social care funding nationwide. If support in the community is threatened, people with dementia, at crisis point, will need costly hospital treatment, putting more pressure on the NHS. Short-term measures are needed to avoid long-term damage.

People with dementia will be looking to the prime minister to demonstrate leadership by making these promises a reality. It really is not time to celebrate quite yet.

Louise Lakey, policy manager, Alzheimer's Society

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