Dementia patient care has not received the "urgency and priority" it requires from the Department of Health (DH) despite an "ambitious" national government strategy launched in February 2009, a spending watchdog has said.
Too many older people were put into care homes early or had to spend unnecessary time in hospital due to "patchy" joined-up working and too little basic training, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
There is a "strong risk" the government's plan would still not show better value for money in five years because of funding issues, although the NAO said the "ambitious and comprehensive" strategy addressed its earlier criticisms, along with those of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Tory MP Edward Leigh, PAC chairman, said the Department of Health must "demonstrate that this strategy is not just fine words and give the NHS and local authorities the tools they need to transform dementia services as a matter of urgency".
The NAO accused the DH of failing to live up to its ambitious plans, and concluded in its report: ""Improving services and support for people with dementia lacks the urgency and priority that the (PAC) had been led to expect."
Dementia is a growing problem in England, with the number of sufferers expected to hit 1.2 million within 30 years - double the current total. The costs of caring for those with the condition are predicted to rise from £15.9 billion in 2009 to £34.8 billion in 2026. A total of £8.2 billion, or half the current national cost, is spent directly on social care and the NHS.