Glasgow SNP MSP Sandra White signalled her backing for free health care for people with advanced dementia during a late-night parliamentary debate she led.

Politicians joined dementia charities and carers groups at a Holyrood reception to mark 10 years since the signing of the Charter of Rights in Scotland, which set key standards for the care and treatment of dementia, focused on safeguarding their basic human rights.

They included improvements in the training of health professionals, non-discrimination and “equitable access to services”.

The Evening Times and our sister title The Herald are backing a campaign by Alzheimer Scotland to ensure people with advanced dementia have access to free health care, like others suffering from progressive or terminal illnesses.

The charity says individuals and their families are facing one of the greatest health inequalities.

Ms White said the charter had resulted in Scotland having some of the most progressive dementia policies in the world but said “more needs to be done” including looking at the issue of health care costs.

She praised the Evening Times and the Herald for backing Alzheimer ­Scotland’s fair care campaign.

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She said: “I must thank the Herald and the Evening Times for raising this in their papers.

“Is it health care or is it social care? We know that health care can be very expensive and out of reach for many families.”

She called on the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman to look at assessment policies.

Alzheimer Scotland is now working to “redraw” the Charter for the future and said fairer care for dementia patients would be a key priority.

Almost 5000 people have now signed Alzheimer Scotland’s petition.

Christine Grahame MSP described dementia as a “dreadful slow killer of personalities” and called for greater support for carers.

She told how a close friend had succumbed to the illness saying, “It ate away at her bit by bit”.

Evening Times:

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Former Labour MSP, Irene Oldfather, who is now Director of Strategy for at the Health and Care Alliance, and led the charter said: “Sometimes it’s from the embers of the darkest days that we can find the resilience to shine the brightest light.

“Most people in the room tonight have had family or personal experience of dementia – of the rollercoaster of emotions that that brings. The highs and lows, the ups and downs.

“The windows of opportunity that can quickly close.

“That is why what we individually and collectively do, matters.

“Because to be treated as a human being, to feel part of a community, to have rights respected by all, makes that rollercoaster bearable.

“And it’s particularly important to listen hard to hear the quiet voices of those with advanced dementia who aren’t with us tonight but who look to us to hear what they say in their own quiet way.

“Over the next 10 years we mustn’t fail them. We must continue to improve and enforce rights across all communities.”

Other speakers included Professor Alan Miller, who advises the Scottish Government on human rights law.

The event was organised by the Health and Care Alliance, Alzheimer Scotland and the University of the West of Scotland.

Amanda McCarren, from Uddingston, of carers group TIDE – Together in Dementia Every Day – said many families face a struggle to get the right standard of care for relatives.

Ms McCarren cared for her late grandmother after she was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

She said: “When my gran passed away I wanted to give carers a voice. At the end of the day dementia is still not seen in the same way as other diseases. It’s about making sure that patients get fair care.”

Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “The signing of the Charter of Rights in 2009 helped to dramatically shift our understanding of dementia from a solely medical model to a person centred, rights based understand of citizens, who despite living with a challenging, progressive condition retain their human rights to choice, power, control, autonomy and inclusion.”