Lancashire residents living with dementia are likely to need ongoing “significant support” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the county’s senior NHS leaders has said.

Dr. Amanda Doyle, chair of the region’s integrated care system (ICS), said that work was underway to assess the continuing help needed by various vulnerable sections of the community “given the fact that the way in which they live their lives and can access care and support has changed”.

She told a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s health scrutiny committee that dementia sufferers would be included in the plans that are currently being drawn up.

Committee member Nikki Hennessy warned that a clear strategy was required for dementia patients in view of the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 infections and the continuing diagnosis of new dementia cases during the pandemic.

“I know from personal experience that the isolation as a result of the outbreak has taken its toll on many residents – and I think their health and wellbeing will definitely have been affected,” she said.

The meeting heard that some services which used to benefit dementia patients – including day centres – had been left with no choice but to close as the crisis escalated, because of the risk of infection.

Although not on the official government-generated list of conditions requiring people to shield themselves completely from the outside world, Dr. Doyle said that local GPs had rapidly added dementia patients to that category locally, in recognition of the fact that they often faced a “double whammy” of mental and physical frailty.

“It’s much harder for patients even with very mild to moderate dementia, who may be living relatively independently, to understand how to access help and support where they need it – or to remember some of the steps they need to take to protect themselves.

“We’re doing some work now trying to make sure we have got a consistent offer, with enough capacity to not only support people socially, but to make sure that they have got the right access to medication – and also get a flu jab this winter if they can’t come out and access the normal setting.

“We are maintaining some of the support to people who are isolated, working with carers support organisations, recognising that we will need increased support for quite some time around that group,” Dr. Doyle added.

The government’s centrally co-ordinated shielding programme will be “paused” from 1st August, it was announced last month.

Dr. Doyle added that dementia patients in care homes had faced their own particular challenges.

“[They were] suddenly cut off from access to visits from families.  If you suddenly withdraw contact with what is familiar to someone who has dementia, they can often become agitated and their condition deteriorates quite rapidly,” she said.