Dame Barbara Windsor has met with Boris Johnson at Downing Street to discuss dementia care in the UK.
Ahead of the meeting, the former EastEnders star – who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 – recorded a message thanking the 100,000 people who have signed her open letter calling for the PM to address the “devastating state” of dementia care.
She said: “Thank you all so much for showing your support in signing the letter to our new Prime Minister. It means so much. Let’s make this happen, and fix dementia care.”
On Monday afternoon, the actress, her husband Scott Mitchell and fellow campaigners from the Alzheimer’s Society were welcomed by Johnson at Downing Street, where they had a conversation about the current limitations around dementia care in the UK.
Holding Dame Barbara’s hands, Johnson pledged: “We’ll do this. It’s very hard. We have to sort it out.
“I’m going to do my best for you. It’s a big old job.”
At the end of their conversation, the star asked Johnson – who appeared alongside her in an EastEnders Children In Need sketch when he was still London Mayor – for a kiss, to which he said: “Of course.”
In the Alzheimer’s Society’s open letter to the PM, they call for an improvement to dementia care through immediate investment in an NHS Dementia Fund, while addressing long-term reform for the social care system as a priority.
They say: “Our experience is of a care system that too often doesn’t care – one that is completely inadequate, unfair, unsustainable and in dire need of more money. Across the country dementia care is difficult, an in some places even impossible, to access.
“Where support is available, it is of hugely variable quality and unaffordable for far too many. Too often, people with dementia end up hospitalised through lack of care, leading to enormous cost for the NHS and great personal cost to themselves.
“The collective political failure to agree to deliver care reform over decades has left us with a system in crisis. It is families that pick up the strain. Daughters, sons, partners and friends are stepping in and spending 1.3 billion hours a year providing care – many are at breaking point.
“Immediate investment in dementia care, through a Dementia Fund proposed by Alzheimer’s Society, while a long-term funding solution is sought. Decisive action to fix dementia care funding, without delay, must be an immediate priority for your Government.
“We stand with people affected by dementia in urging you to Fix Dementia Care.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, dementia is the biggest health and care challenge facing the UK, as it is predicted one million people in the UK will have dementia by 2021.
Barbara – best known as Queen Vic landlady Peggy Mitchell – publicly revealed news of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis last year, after four years of living with the disease privately.
Her husband, Scott, said he was “so proud” to be delivering the letter to Downing Street alongside her.
“This overwhelming response from the people across the country really shows the public outrage at the distress caused by our broken social care system,” he added.
Scott previously revealed Barbara has been left in need of constant care, as she can no longer be left alone.
He told The Mirror in January: “She thanks me for looking after her. I say to her, ‘You don’t have to thank me’. Barbara can’t be left alone any more. That’s the reality of it. She has to have constant care.
“She can’t look after herself but then we still sit and have dinner and watch TV and have normal conversations.”