The BBC is reporting this morning that NHS England’s diagnosis rate of dementia in the population is around 20% lower per head than it is in NHS Scotland or Northern Ireland. Now before we all rush to cultural stereotypes and poor taste jokes – the issue that is being highlighted is the ‘shocking low’ diagnosis rate in England. A 20% improvement in diagnosis rates will still mean that around one-third of cases will go undiagnosed. And this will merely bring up the diagnosis rate in England to that of our Celtic cousins.
There is an estimated 670,000 cases of dementia in England – this is set to double in the next 30 years on current trends. Just think of the business opportunities for the care sector, or if you prefer the burden on the state that this will cause.
Dr Charles Alessi – Chairman of the National Association of Primary Care and an adviser for Public Health England gives some ground for hope. He wants to see more preventative work undertaken – especially with regard to vascular dementia which is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. This condition can be limited or prevented.
Guess what the preventative measures are, don’t smoke, exercise, eat well, control blood pressure and avoid or control diabetes…
This got me thinking. Should the state start giving fruit and vegetables away free to anyone who will cycle or walk to the pick up point? Or better still should we all follow Todmorden’s example of ‘Incredible Edible’ and plant fruit and vegetable around our communities for us all to use. Do you fancy roadside chive and fennel?
And for those who prefer the stick to the carrot we could always tax less healthy foods! These simple solutions seem like they should be particularly attractive … but beware. I heard a challenging tale yesterday about food banks. There has been an increase in anti-social behaviour reported in some areas where food has been given away free. The ‘free eggs’ are not all being eaten! Some are being hurled inappropriately.
I glanced at the BBC2 programme on a day in the life of the NHS yesterday. I saw people with heart conditions having emergency treatment being encouraged not to smoke and uttering self-delusional comments about ‘I only smoke 5 a day etc.’ For the viewer the message was clear – but not to the patient.
I suppose all this goes to show that we have more to worry about than dementia. Why are we as a species so ready to diagnose the remedy for others, but be so unwilling to take it ourselves? If I am unlucky enough to get dementia I may well end up not being able to ponder whether I should have had more lettuce. At least I won’t understand the ‘I told you so’ comments either though! Now there’s a thought – enjoy them while you still can!