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Liz Kendall: MPs at their best in debate on dementia


On Thursday, I took part in the best debate I have attended since becoming a Member of Parliament. It was on dementia and was organised by the Committee of Backbench MPs.

Let's be honest, a lot of parliamentary debates create more heat than light and are often about political point-scoring rather than a proper, reasonable discussion.

However, this one was different.

First, because many MPs spoke about their personal experiences as a son, daughter or wife of someone with dementia.

They talked about the shock of getting the diagnosis, the fear of what would happen and what it felt like losing the person they loved even before they had died.

While some had experienced fantastic support, others said they had faced a real struggle and, sometimes, unacceptably poor standards of care.

The second reason why the debate was different was that MPs from different political parties did not blame one another for the difficulties faced by people with dementia and their families.

Instead, they tried to understand the causes of these problems and what needed to change to improve care in future.

I summed up the debate as Labour's shadow minister for care and older people.

Like all the other MPs who spoke, I also talked about the experiences of my constituents and within my own family.

These experiences have shown me that we need to do much more to increase awareness about dementia and tackle the stigma that is still too often associated with the condition.

While there is currently no cure, people with dementia can live well, if they get the right help and support.

This means getting people diagnosed much earlier, with far better information about what having dementia means and the help that's available locally.

It also means joining up NHS, council and voluntary services so people do not have to battle different parts of the system and ensuring care and support is personalised to meets the needs of every individual and their family.

This cannot be done unless doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, home helps and care home staff have proper skills and training, particularly in how to communicate with dementia patients.

We must also face up to the long-term challenges of ensuring there is proper funding for medical research into dementia and a decent system of social care.

Of course, it is all very well talking about things. What my constituents want is for things to change on the ground.

Change is possible. Twenty years ago, people thought nothing could be done about cancer. That is no longer the case.

We need to do the same for dementia, which is why it will be a key priority of the new Health and Care Forum I have set up in Leicester West

Many people understandably think politicians are out of touch and do not live in the real world.

If you are one of them, please read the transcript of Thursday's dementia debate.

If you do, you will see that sometimes MPs do speak from the heart, about issues that really matter.

Liz Kendall: MPs at their best in  debate on dementia

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