Chief Executive Joe Rafferty responds to Katie Hopkins' criticism of dementia patients

Full Text of Joe Rafferty’s open letter to Katie Hopkins following her criticism of dementia and dementia patients on Twitter:

Dear Katie

As the chief executive of one of the largest mental health trusts in the country, I felt compelled to reply to your comments on Twitter yesterday regarding dementia and dementia patients.

I was particularly distressed you believe that “this country still treats animals more humanely than humans,” a statement that fails to acknowledge the significant advances in care and treatment for mental health patients in recent years.

Here at Mersey Care NHS Trust in Merseyside, we have an extremely high-quality programme of care for people with dementia. The dementia wards at our new Clock View hospital feature a range of ways to support people with dementia which are all designed to make them feel more at home during their stay.

According to the latest statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society, there are 850,000 people being treated for dementia in the UK, a figure they expect to rise to one million by 2025. Claiming dementia patients are “blocking beds” and asking “what is the point of life when you no longer know you are living it?” shows a lack of understanding, empathy and compassion to the many people in the UK who live with this condition.

You may be interested to know that two thirds of them live at home and live fulfilling lives. They do not “suffer” from dementia, they live with it and enjoy the ups and downs of daily life like the rest of us.

Everyone at Mersey Care is campaigning to change stereotypical, negative, old fashioned views about dementia, as all it does is perpetuate the stigma. Dementia does not take away the person, a fact many of our activists, service users and carers can testify to. It would have been more helpful if you had researched the facts before speaking out and hurting those people who least deserve such ill-educated criticism.

No one chooses dementia but one in five of us will go on to develop it as we age and with good services and support it is possible to live well with it. People with dementia deserve empathy, support and opportunities to live their lives, which is what Mersey Care works hard to deliver in collaboration with other services in Liverpool. We have a great deal of evidence to support this as do many other NHS Trusts up and down the country – you only have to look.

We have recently adopted a human rights based approach to our care in both our dementia and learning disability services, which allows us to see the person, not the service user. We believe a person’s human rights should be at the heart of our services and we have worked very hard to develop this approach.  Your statements undermine this approach, and in only 140 characters of an ill thought through Tweet, you have managed to insult people living with dementia and denigrate the efforts of their carers as well as NHS staff up and down the country; I would encourage you to issue an unreserved apology.

We live in a society where freedom of speech is valued and I am sure you will argue that you are as entitled to your opinion as anyone else. But, when populists speak without the facts, then you cause distraction and hurt that makes it difficult to solve the big problems that matter to family, friends and neighbours, because these are the very people your prejudice damages.

You are fortunate they are not as ill-informed as yourself. Only this morning one of our service users replied to you, saying: “sad that you think like this, but I forgive you because you know not what you say.”



Joe Rafferty

Chief Executive, Mersey Care NHS Trust

8 April 2014