In the last few weeks, doing my day job, I have talked with those who are living with dementia and cancer. They have told me about how these dreadful diseases have touched their lives. I have also heard how dementia and cancer has changed their lives and how their lives have never been the same since they found out they have these two potentially devastating illnesses in their lives.
A generation ago you couldn’t even say the word cancer on hospital ward, let alone at home. Nobody talked about it and if you actually, eventually got ‘the diagnosis’ that was pretty much it. Get your affairs in order if you can, the clock is ticking and you can’t wind it up any more. A generation on and cancer is not the killer it once was. Some cancers are still not treatable and are fatal but most are livable, most are treatable. Today you can have a life and do something while you live with cancer. Linda Bellingham proved this beautifully, with great style and great humour too.
Dementia today is where cancer was a generation ago. We are still in denial over it, there are very few treatments for it and there is currently no cure for it. Cancer and our success in tackling it means that dementia has now been exposed for the illness it is. It’s not inevitable it will get you as you get older but, like cancer, you have a one in three chance of ‘the diagnosis’ and those odds are not good enough for you and me.
The principle problem with dementia and all its various types is getting the actual diagnosis. We know there are no treatments or cure and because of this we don’t want to face having to be assessed to see if we have it. As it stands the medical profession is currently not equipped or skilled enough to recognise the signs of dementia, treat it or cure it, much in the same way they were with cancer 30 years ago.
So giving GP’s £55 to diagnose dementia is ridiculous and it’s abhorrent. GP’s shouldn’t be paid a fee to do something that they should already be doing. If it’s a training need for GPs then train them but paying per diagnosis of dementia is just wrong. What next? £10 per cold and a £5 for ‘it’s a virus’?
The reality is that doctors already earn good money and they have to commit to a profession that takes their all. That is the deal. I used to be married to one and I am in awe of all she has done and still has to do every single day. All doctors constantly learn and train. It’s what they do. Adding dementia to their continued professional development should not be a problem. Dementia is fast becoming the health issue of our time and every doctor would benefit from this specific focus in their training.
The other issue we all have to face is that healthcare costs far more than we are all paying at the moment. Like or not every drug used costs millions to develop, prescribe and that has to be paid for. Every doctor, nurse, care assistant has to be trained, developed and rewarded and that has to be paid for. Every bit of the NHS has to be paid for. And the NHS needs to be managed and that has to be paid for too. 113 billion pounds is not enough to run the NHS you and I want. We are just going to have to more for it to use it.
The NHS is not free. It was never set up as ‘free’ and now, with health challenges like dementia, unknowns like Ebola, further advances in cancer care and its treatment we, you and me, are going to have to pay for it. Maybe we will not be paying for ourselves but for others, our loved ones to be treated and cared for. One thing is certain we are not paying enough today.
Here is THE question. Would you pay what you could to save your partner, your child, your parent? I would. I would give all I could. It’s about time we all faced up to that reality.
Another reality is that the NHS is not a political football to be kicked between the political parties claiming they can make it better. They have both made a mess of it, through under investment, PFI, miss management and perpetual reorganisation starting back with Enoch Powell in 1962 and every government of every colour since. They one thing politicians have not be fundamentally honest with us about the NHS is its cost. A NHS set up in 1947 is not equipped for 500,000 people living over the age of 90 and all the medical advances to today. Our healthcare success is the NHS financial failure.
If you and me want the NHS, to save the NHS, use the NHS you and me are going to have to pay for the NHS, if we can. Dementia proves it and the political parties need to stop prancing about saying they can do better and be honest about our healthcare.