Jeremy Hunt will promise today to give greater priority to improving the care of dementia sufferers during his time as Health Secretary.

He will say he wants to make England “one of the best countries in Europe to be old” as he announces that £50m will be spent on providing specially designed care homes and wards for people with dementia. The move follows growing concern that dementia is the “unacknowledged epidemic” of the age, as highlighted in a campaign by The Independent in August.

Speaking at a conference in Eastbourne, Mr Hunt will say: “Dementia is one of the biggest threats we will face in the 21st century. It will affect us all. Whether it’s someone we know, someone we care for, or even ourselves.”

He will tell local authority care chiefs they “must take the lead” in making a difference. “If the best dementia care in England is exemplary … the worst is nothing short of scandalous. We’ve all seen the reports – of people with dementia being criminally abused by their care workers or drugged up … just so a care assistant can get a good night’s sleep,” he will say.

“These may be extreme, isolated events but they highlight a culture where dementia is stigmatised and where those with [it] are not valued … [This] must and will change.”

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