As we go into the Christmas period, I want to start by thanking the many of you who will be working over the next two weeks. You are giving up precious time with your families so that everyone else can enjoy Christmas secure in the knowledge that a superb NHS is there for them if anything goes wrong. I know the public are incredibly grateful - and I also know how much you will be doing to cheer up people in your care who would rather be home with their families even if they can’t this year. A & E departments in particular can be busy in the festive period and I am urging people who use the NHS to take the trouble to thank staff for the sacrifices they are making.
This month we held the world’s first ever G8 Summit on dementia. I remember meeting an NHS care home manager in north London, who told me the efforts she went to for her patients: “If I can put a smile on their face, they won’t remember it tomorrow but I will - and I go home with an even bigger smile on mine.” There is so much amazing care - but also a lot of misunderstanding of dementia.
That’s why it is so significant that the leading countries of the world have agreed not just to work together to find a cure or a disease modifying therapy for dementia by 2025, but also to collaborate on ways of improving care. France in particular has a care model that I want to study carefully, to see what we can learn. In the meantime, I hope as many of you as possible will speak to your family and friends about dementia and spread the word about becoming a Dementia Friend. The training only takes a couple of hours, but will help raise everyone’s understanding of this very challenging condition.
Finally, I would like to say a particular thank you to district nurses who will be spending the festive period visiting vulnerable and often lonely older people. You do an inspiring job not just over Christmas but throughout the year and we need more of you!
We need to be better as a society at looking after lonely older people, particularly the 5 million people who say their main company is TV. I would encourage everyone to sign up to NHS England’s fantastic Winter Friend scheme, and take time this winter to look in on an elderly friend or neighbour to check they are warm, well and safe.