Dementia strategy to miss December target

A national dementia and alzheimer’s service improvement plan which was meant to be implemented by the end of this year will fail to meet its target.

The Oireachtas health committee has heard that the strategy will still only be in draft format by December, despite the Programme for Government insisting that it would be in place by the end of 2013.

The improvement plan is being drawn up in an attempt to enhance existing community-based services, ensure early diagnosis, and improve resources ring-fenced for addressing dementia and alzheimer’s.

An estimated 41,700 people currently live with the condition in Ireland, with the rate expected to climb to between 141,000 and 147,000 by 2041.

Speaking about the issue during a recent Dáil debate, Kathleen Lynch, minister for older people, said the strategy would be “transformative” but will have to take account of the rigid budget restrictions being imposed on the health service.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesman, Caoimghín Ó Caoláin, told yesterday’s committee meeting the delay was “deeply, deeply concerning” for those affected by the conditions.

“The Programme for Government said the alzheimer’s and dementia strategy would be in place by the end of this year, but what is now being said is that a draft strategy will be completed by the end of this year.

“It is deeply, deeply concerning that we are talking of the strategy, but the words being used about its importance run totally opposite to what is happening,” he said.

Among the details of the strategy that have yet to be revealed are its exact implementation plan, a clear structure on who is responsible for what sections of the improved service, and a cost analysis of any changes to be imposed.

Groups as diverse as the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, Care Alliance Ireland, the Disability Federation of Ireland, the Irish Hospice Foundation, Nursing Homes Ireland and Age Action Ireland, among others, have already given detailed submissions to the Department of Health on what they believe the new strategy must contain.

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