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Government announces major drive to transform dementia care

Research funding to double to £66m a year by 2014-15

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 26 March 2012

The government has today announced a major new drive to tackle and improve dementia care in the UK.

Funding of research into dementia is to double to £66 million a year by 2014-15 and steps are planned to improve diagnosis rates, services for people with dementia and to raise awareness.

Clinicians will also be expected to do more to diagnose dementia and help patients with the condition.

Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking today, said he wanted the UK to become a world-leader for a dementia friendly society, care and research.

In England, 670,000 people have dementia and the number of people developing the disease is increasing. It is estimated that one in three people will develop dementia and it costs society an estimated £19 billion a year.

The Prime Minister’s announcement covers three areas intended to deliver major improvements in dementia care, dementia awareness and dementia research by 2015 and he has set up three ‘Champion Groups’ to lead the work. Each will report back to him in six months.

The Alzheimer’s Society, which today published its report Dementia 2012: A national challenge to coincide with Mr Cameron’s announcement, will be leading the work on dementia awareness and communities.

Under the Department’s plans, there will be a concerted effort to drive up diagnosis rates by 2015, given that only 42% of people with dementia have a formal diagnosis and there is significant regional variation.

Locally, the NHS will set local dementia action plans quantifying their ambition for diagnosis rates and the Department will introducing changes to the NHS Health Check for 65-74 year olds so that patients are given information on memory clinics and refer those in need of an assessment.

From next month, the Department will introduce financial rewards for hospitals that assess patients for dementia.

To help raise awareness, by 2015, there will be at least 20 cities, towns and villages working together as “dementia-friendly” communities, meaning a place where cities, towns, villages and local businesses and organisations support people to live well with dementia, helping them remain independent for longer.

A government funded public awareness campaign on dementia will be launched in the autumn.

The government will more than double the funding for research into dementia and neurodegenerative disease to over £66 million each year by 2014-15, compared to 2009-10, and it will increase the opportunities for people with dementia to participate in high quality research.

Today’s report from the Alzheimer’s Society said that nearly two-thirds of people with dementia did not feel part of their community and nearly half had lost friends.

In addition, 71% of people with dementia said they would like their community to understand how to help them live well, but three quarters of people in the UK said they felt that society was not geared up to deal with dementia.

Mr Cameron said: “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.

“It is a scandal that we as a country haven’t kept pace with it [dementia]. The level of diagnosis, understanding and awareness of dementia is shockingly low. 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.”

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “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.”

England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “The UK is a world-leader in dementia research. This significant funding boost will allow us to push ahead with a comprehensive programme to increase the volume of dementia research.”

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