Alliance Calls For Urgent Reform Of NI Dementia Care

The Alliance Party has called for dementia treatment in Northern Ireland to be urgently reformed and updated to capture new breakthroughs arising from research.

The party's Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw, made the call as ground-breaking new drugs and the potential for early intervention arising from blood tests have been shown to offer an entirely different pathway to slowing down progression of the disease.

The South Belfast MLA has said: "Northern Ireland has traditionally been one of the leaders in the identification of dementia and in the provision of world-class pathways for those diagnosed. However, breakthroughs in research now mean a very different approach is required and we are at risk of falling behind.

"Where before it was a matter of identifying who had dementia and who did not, and perhaps identifying a type of dementia to inform the approach to treatment and support, we now need to know much more about how the individual is affected to establish if there is potential to slow down progression or even identify the disease before symptoms are evident.

"We already have new drugs coming into use, but such interventions also invariably require much more regular use of scans to check against progression. This means that a treatment pathway needs to be created that is quite different from any currently existing.

"Today we have also heard of hopes that blood tests may be used, potentially a decade or more prior to symptoms, to identify people who are likely to develop dementia and enable earlier and crucial intervention. This too, if demonstrated in further research, would fundamentally change how we should be managing dementia and intervening as soon as possible to slow and potentially even stop progression.

"It is estimated that almost three quarters of those in care homes across the UK have dementia or severe memory problems, and there are also a lot of people currently managing to stay at home thanks to domiciliary care or care from relatives or friends. It is essential that there is no delay in ensuring that services and support in Northern Ireland are adapted and updated to maximise the potential of slowing progression and provide for a much higher quality of life through to old age."

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