CONCERN about the rising number of people in Suffolk suffering from dementia will prompt the launch of a pioneering campaign today to end the stigma surrounding the condition.

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With an additional 10,000 people in Suffolk estimated to be suffering with dementia over the next 20 years, the impact on health and social care will be huge.

But today, in Suffolk and Norfolk, the country’s most ambitious bid to tackle the issue will be launched – with a specific aim of making the two counties more “dementia friendly”.

The Government wants to see villages, towns and cities across the UK taking up the Prime Minister’s challenge to create dementia-friendly communities.

However, in Suffolk and Norfolk the challenge has been accepted with such relish that rather than setting up a handful of “model” communities, the drive will be to ensure the whole counties are given the help needed to make life easier for people living independently with dementia and their families.

It is already being backed by major employers – like the East of England Co-operative Society and First Buses – who are among the firms making sure staff are more understanding of the condition.

Dr Daniel Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and a junior health minister, said that with dementia on the rise, there needed to be a focus on early diagnosis and more “joined-up care”.

He said: “I know as a doctor and as a constituency MP who represents a lot of older people that the big healthcare challenge that Suffolk faces is providing greater dignity and care of older people and in particular doing more to face up to the challenge to care for the increasing number of people who have dementia and will have dementia in the future.

“[The Suffolk and Norfolk launch] is a very good idea, although we have really got to make sure that sometimes when we have organisations come together they can talk a good game but that they can deliver as well.

“We need to see how it’s going to stack up and put more investment in and learn from the really good work being done by groups like the Debenham Project.”

The launch comes as NHS Suffolk prepares a report that paints a stark picture of the challenges the county faces in caring for a growing elderly population over the next decade.

The Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Suffolk warns that over the next 20 years the proportion of 80 to 84-year-olds will increase by 71% and the number of 85 to 90-year-olds will double. The number of people developing dementia will rise by 10,000, it says.

Willie Cruickshank, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, will launch the bid today.

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