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The head of NHS England says it’s vital that health angles are considered when building new communities, to help tackle issues such as dementia and obesity.

Making a speech to the Kings Fund in London this week, NHS England Chief Exec Simon Stevens revealed plans to create ‘healthy new towns’ across the country, which could affect up to 170,000 people and cover 76,000 new homes.

The idea is that as new houses are built, towns will also take into account advice from the NHS on how they can create communities that will also be healthier. In terms of dementia, this will involve creating dementia-friendly streets and town centres that have plenty of signposts, accessible public toilets and benches, to make the difference between getting out and about and being confined to their home.

They aim to explore new ways of integrating housing, care and communities to help keep older people and those with dementia in their own homes for longer. This will include innovative residential care facilities, flexible housing options and step-up or respite care.

Mr Stevens said: ‘The much-needed push to kick start affordable housing across England creates a golden opportunity for the NHS to help promote health and keep people independent. As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we’ll kick ourselves if in ten years’ time we look back having missed the opportunity to ‘design out’ the obesogenic environment, and ‘design in’ health and wellbeing.

‘We want to see neighbourhoods and adaptable home designs that make it easier for older people to continue to live independently wherever possible.’

For example, in Whitehill and Bordon, in Hampshire, they’re creating a new ‘care campus’ of 3,350 care-ready homes that are specially designed to be adaptable to the needs of people with long term conditions with a nurse-led treatment centre, pharmacy and integrated care hub.

Other sites picked to be part of the programme are located in Cranbrook in Devon, a new development in Darlington, Barking Riverside in London, Halton Lea in Runcorn, Cheshire, Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire, a new community in Bicester, Oxfordshire, Northstowe in Cambridgeshire, Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent and Barton Park in Oxford.

This is not the first time that communities are beginning to take steps to make towns more dementia-friendly. Read our article on what’s being done here.

Creating an environment which allows people with dementia to live for as long as possible in their own home is also core to the aims of Unforgettable, and we strongly believe that the start of dementia-friendly communities starts at home. For more information on how to make your home more suitable for someone with dementia, click here.