Dementia care and services are still priority

As we draw nearer to the end of yet another year, we look back over 12 months in local, national and international politics, writes Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke.

Harold McMillan once famously described ‘events’ as things politicians most fear, but I think politics today has evolved to become more pragmatic, often a solution to obstacles rather than the cause.

Before my re-election in May 2015 I published My Plan for Elmet & Rothwell, a six-point action plan to build upon the foundation of work I started in my first term.

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Over the past 12 months there have been many events to be distracted by, but I’m pleased to say that I’ve been able to progress a key aspect of my plan: to make Elmet & Rothwell the UK’s first Dementia Friendly constituency.

This month I launched my Dementia Directory, the first of its kind across the UK and a key go to guide for information about dementia care and services in our area. Thousands of these brochures have been distributed to community facilities and an online version is available via my website.

By 2021 the Alzheimer’s Society estimates that over 1 million people will be living with dementia. Following my first Dementia Summit in January 2015 I’ve been working closely with volunteers in our community to make Elmet & Rothwell more dementia friendly. That’s why I’m pleased to have been able to deliver the Dementia Directory so early on in my second term as your Member of Parliament, because bringing together details of GPs, volunteer organisations and care providers in one place will help those living with dementia know how and where to access first-class dementia services locally.

Twenty-five years ago when my own grandmother was diagnosed with dementia there was little support and information available for carers and I wish now that she could have received an earlier diagnosis so we could have found professional help much earlier. Thankfully, the outlook for families living with dementia today is much better.

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Here in Elmet & Rothwell there are some inspiring organisations that make me feel optimistic that dementia can be dealt with more effectively and compassionately. I’ve seen first-hand that this kind of support, delivered well and early on in a person’s dementia journey, can lead to better outcomes.

These truly inspirational support networks are not those provided by professionals but by community organisations such as the Tea Cosy Memory Café in Rothwell, the Neighbourhood Elders’ Team in Garforth and, of course, Wetherby in Support of the Elderly (WiSE) which has been providing a fantastic local service for many years now.

I’m especially pleased to see that Wetherby’s new Town Mayor, Coun Norma Harrington, is also working to raise the profile of dementia care and services in the area. As a Trustee of WiSE, Coun Harrington’s new role as Town Mayor will bring about even closer working partnerships between all services in our community.

WiSe, like all community-led dementia services in my constituency, prove what many health professionals already know: that peer support networks and dementia advisers are effective in providing information to people with dementia and their carers - and they are deeply valued by service users.

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When I secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on dementia care during the last Parliament, I said I was incredibly proud to be part of a government that is shining a long overdue light on dementia – not least through the former Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to host the G8 Summit on dementia in 2014.

But there’s still much to do before we can be confident that everyone living with dementia is able to live a fulfilled life and I am incredibly grateful to our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, who met with me a few weeks ago to reaffirm her commitment to investing in dementia research. The Prime Minister also commented on how impressed she was at the range of great local dementia services highlighted in my Dementia Directory.

As we leave 2016 behind us and enter the new year ahead, it remains my goal to help improve dementia services for the people I represent in Parliament. In the meantime, I’d like to wish all residents a peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Readers can access Mr Shelbrooke’s Dementia Directory at