A service to prevent people with dementia and those suspected of having the disease, their carers and family members from reaching crisis point is to be extended as it emerged patients are facing an unprecedented ten-month wait to be diagnosed.
Senior North Yorkshire County councillors will on Friday consider extending the Countywide Dementia Support and Advice Service for 24 months to provide more proactive support at a total cost of £643,000.
Councillors will hear while extending the service will cost the public purse an extra £120,000 it is believed early service intervention will prevent more intensive support being needed, cutting costs further down the line for both adult social care and health services.
An officer’s report to the executive members’ meeting warns a lack of investment now would result in even longer waiting times, a reduced capacity workforce along with “possible carer breakdown”.
The meeting will be told referrals and the number of people using the helpline have increased since the charity Dementia Forward service was established in 2019.
While the service supports people who are on waiting lists of up to ten months, referrals and calls to its helpline are often more complex than those pre-Covid, the report states.
It adds: “Service demand is far outstripping supply, particularly following on from the Covid-19 pandemic, with more complex referrals from individuals living with dementia or those who care for them.
“The waiting list in achieving a formal diagnosis is at an all-time high which also contributes to higher levels of activity for this service.”
The move to extend the service comes just days after it was revealed the proportion of care homes in England offering dementia services branded inadequate by the Care Quality Commission more than tripled from two per cent to nine per cent between 2019 and 2022.
While the families of dementia patients say rising demand is putting services under unprecedented pressure, the costs of dealing with the disease, which is already the biggest killer in England, are forecast to more than double to £80bn by 2040.
The support service, which is jointly funded by council and the NHS, helps direct people to related services to better understand their condition, develop self-management skills and access support in their local community to promote independence, well-being, and give choice and control.
It also provides dedicated educational sessions for those living with or suspected to be living with dementia, carers, schools, community groups, providers and businesses to better understand dementia and its impact on individuals, families and communities.
Councillor Michael Harrison, the authority’s health and adult services executive member, said Yorkshire Forward was delivering a superb service in terms of activity levels and quality, and had used funds it had raised to subsidise the service.
He said as North Yorkshire’s age profile was about five years above the national average, having a service which could provide support ahead of a potential diagnosis was crucial.
Coun Harrison said: “We recognise this as one of the significant pressures facing the health service, so having a support and advice service you can tap into early, without waiting for a diagnosis is a huge benefit.”