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5:57am UK, Monday March 26, 2012
Funding for research into dementia is to be more than doubled in a bid to tackle the “national crisis” posed by the disease, Prime Minister David Cameron will say today.
Mr Cameron will set out plans to step up research into cures and treatments and to ensure that the health and social care systems are equipped to deal with the issue.
He will announce it is a “scandal” that the UK has not done more to address dementia and that solving the challenge is one of his personal priorities.
Dementia is thought to affect 750,000 people in the UK. By 2021, the number is expected to rise to one million.
As part of his ‘National Challenge on Dementia’, the Prime Minister will announce plans to raise funding for research to £66m by 2015, from £26.6m in 2010.
“One of the greatest challenges of our time is what I’d call the quiet crisis, one that steals lives and tears at the hearts of families, but that relative to its impact is hardly acknowledged,” Mr Cameron is expected to say.
So my argument today is that we’ve got to treat this like the national crisis it is. We need an all-out fight-back against this disease; one that cuts across society.
“Dementia is simply a terrible disease. And it is a scandal that we as a country haven’t kept pace with it. The level of diagnosis, understanding and awareness of dementia is shockingly low. It is as though we’ve been in collective denial.”
The costs associated with dementia are already higher than those for cancer, heart disease or stroke, the Prime Minister will say.
“So my argument today is that we’ve got to treat this like the national crisis it is. We need an all-out fight-back against this disease; one that cuts across society.
“We did it with cancer in the 70s. With HIV in the 80s and 90s. We fought the stigma, stepped up to the challenge and made massive in-roads into fighting these killers.”
Daphne Atkinson, from Middlesex, has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She now lives in a care home where her husband Terence visits every day.
He told Sky News that his wife first became forgetful 12 years ago and over time her condition worsened.
Mrs Atkinson had been the ‘life and soul of the party’
He said it has been difficult for friends of the couple, who have struggled to understand Daphne’s condition.
“They knew Daphne as she was,” he said.
“She was life and soul of the party, very extrovert, very friendly and they liked her. She’s a people person. All of a sudden she became quiet and silent and became more introverted and a far different person from the one that they knew just a year or two years beforehand.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said the Prime Minister’s announcement will “mark an unprecedented step towards making the UK a world leader in dementia”.
“Doubling funding for research, tackling diagnosis and calling for a radical shift in the way we talk, think and act on dementia will help to transform lives,” he said.
“There are currently 800,000 people with dementia yet too many are not able to live well with the condition. The PM is leading the way, but from Plymouth to Preston, from the boardroom to bus drivers, we all have a role to play.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK looks forward to working with Government to ensure that this new funding achieves what is so desperately needed – new treatments and therapies.
Shirley Cramer, acting chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK
Shirley Cramer, acting chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said Mr Cameron’s announcement will be an “important step” in recognising and solving the challenge presented by dementia.
“Alzheimer’s Research UK looks forward to working with Government to ensure that this new funding achieves what is so desperately needed – new treatments and therapies,” she said.
But town hall leaders warned there was a “very real crisis” in the provision of care for the elderly and vulnerable.
David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association‘s community wellbeing board, said: “Without fundamental reform and sufficient funding we risk losing the public’s trust and confidence in our ability to do the best for people in later life.
“We now need politicians to transcend political point-scoring and wake up to the ticking demographic time bomb this country is facing.”