Earlier this month the Welsh Government published Wales’ first ever Dementia Strategy. The ‘Draft Dementia Strategic Action Plan for Wales, 2017-2022’ is out for consultation and provides the opportunity to help improve the lives of some 45,000 people living with dementia in Wales.

As Chair of the Assembly’s Cross-Party Group on Dementia I really welcome the commitment the Welsh Government have made publishing this strategy and I’m pleased that that there is a commitment to listen to the voices of people who are living with dementia through the consultation.

There’s a great deal to welcome in the draft strategy: raising awareness to reduce the risk of developing dementia; expanding Dementia Friends and Communities across Wales; ensuring timely access to assessment and diagnosis; and access to support services.

However I believe there’s room for further improvement in the strategy, especially for more ambitious diagnosis rates. The proposal within the strategy would see an annual increase of 3% per year from the existing diagnosis rate of 51%. Under this proposal Wales would only achieve 64% diagnosis rate by 2021/22 - the current diagnosis rate for Northern Ireland.

We wouldn’t accept a 50% diagnosis rate for a condition like cancer and we shouldn’t accept it for something like dementia. I hope that as we move through the consultation it’ll be possible to introduce a more ambitious diagnosis-rate target.

Of course, diagnosis targets are meaningless without the right support in place afterwards and I’m pleased the strategy recognises that with a commitment so that all newly diagnosed people have access to a support worker. Currently in Wales there are 32 support workers so we’ll need significantly more to meet the demand, based on increasing diagnosis rates, something I will be pushing the Welsh Government on.

Anyone who’s had any contact directly with dementia will tell you that it is a game-changing experience and the numbers of people with dementia, or likely to develop it, make it a game-changer for our public services. We have to make sure that the National Dementia Strategy is game changing too.

The consultation will run until 3rd April, and everyone with an interest in dementia is urged to share their views. For further information and how to respond, please visit www.consultations.gov.wales or contact Lynne Neagle at lynne.neagle@assembly.wales or 01495 740022.