The actress was diagnosed in 2014

Dame Barbara Windsor’s on-screen son Ross Kemp has spoken of his love for the ex-EastEnders star, after it was revealed she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The actress, 80, had kept the devastating news secret after she and husband Scott Mitchell, 55, were first told in 2014 – but her symptoms have grown worse in recent weeks.

Ross Kemp, who played Peggy Mitchell’s (Dame Barbara) son Grant in Albert Square, wrote on Twitter: “Very proud of Scott and Barbara for speaking openly about Barbara’s diagnosis.

“I hope by talking openly it will make it easier for others to talk about this dreadful disease.”

He added: “I love both Barbara and Scott very much.”

In an emotional interview with The Sun, Scott said he wanted to set the record straight amid rumours in showbusiness circles about his wife’s deteriorating health.

Barbara Windsor
Dame Barbara Windsor and Scott Mitchell at Buckingham Palace (John Stillwell)

He said: “Since her 80th birthday last August, a definite continual confusion has set in, so it’s becoming a lot more difficult for us to hide.

“I’m doing this because I want us to be able to go out and, if something isn’t quite right, it will be OK because people will now know that she has Alzheimer’s and will accept it for what it is.”

The star, famous for her roles in nine Carry On films and for playing pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, was given the heartbreaking diagnosis on April 22 2014.

After shedding some tears, her first words were: “I’m so sorry”, Scott added.

A small circle of friends who had begun to notice her occasional confusion were told shortly after the diagnosis, he said. But he stopped the news from going public after his wife struggled to come to terms with it.

He stressed that revealing the news any earlier would have been detrimental to her health. Alzheimer’s Research UK director Tim Parry praised the decision to go public with the devastating news.

Dame Barbara also starred in the Carry On films (PA)
Dame Barbara also starred in the Carry On films (PA)

“Alzheimer’s is the most common disease behind dementia, accounting for around two thirds of cases of the condition in older people,” he said. TV presenter Gaby Roslin wrote on Twitter: “My beautiful dear friend Dame Barbara Windsor is an amazing woman and I will love her and wonderful Scott for ever. We’ve been friends for so many years and they are strong and brave together.”