The Prime Minister has announced his commitment to make the U.K. a world leader in the fight against dementia.
In England, 670,000 people have dementia and the number of people developing the disease is increasing. One in three people will develop dementia. The Prime Minister has announced a dementia challenge to society, the medical profession, business and government, alongside the Alzheimer’s Society’s report Dementia 2012: A national challenge.
“Dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face as a society and we are determined to transform the quality of dementia care for patients and their families,” said health secretary Andrew Lansley. “The challenge sets out the government’s ambition to increase diagnosis rates, to raise awareness and understanding and to strengthen substantially our research efforts so we can help those living with dementia have a better quality of life.”
Added care services Minister Paul Burstow, “For the first time, a British Prime Minister has made dementia a clear national priority. We are determined to go further and faster on dementia focusing on the three areas that matter most: awareness, quality care and research. Government cannot meet this challenge alone, which is why we are working closely with the Alzheimer’s Society, voluntary groups, businesses, care providers and the research community.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Society’s report, 75% of people in the U.K. feel society is not geared up to deal with dementia. It found 61% of people diagnosed with dementia are lonely, 77% feel anxious or depressed and 44% have lost friends.
England is one of the first countries in the world to have a National Dementia Strategy. The Prime Minister’s ambitious program covers three areas to go further and faster to deliver major improvements in dementia care, dementia awareness and dementia research by 2015. The Alzheimer’s Society will lead the work on dementia awareness and has been working closely with the Prime Minister and Department of Health.
The Alzheimer’s Society is calling for a radical shift in the way society treats people with dementia to ensure they receive the support and respect they deserve.
“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,” said Jeremy Hughes, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society. “There are currently 800,000 people with dementia. The Prime Minister is leading the way, but we all have a role to play.”
The Prime Minister has set up three ‘Champion Groups’ to lead the work and report back to him in six months:
1. Health and care: Only 42% of people with dementia have a formal diagnosis and there is significant regional variation, from 29% 67%. To drive up diagnosis rates by 2015:
• The local NHS will set local dementia action plans quantifying their ambition for diagnosis rates;
• The Department of Health is introducing changes to the NHS Health Check for 65-74 year olds so patients are given information on memory clinics and refer those in need of an assessment;
• The Department of Health is introducing financial rewards to hospitals in England that offer risk assessments for dementia to 90% of over-75 year olds admitted as emergencies.
2. Raising awareness: The Alzheimer’s Society report said nearly two-thirds of people with dementia did not feel part of their community and nearly half had lost friends; 71% said they would like their community to understand how to help them live well. The Alzheimer’s Society is leading the effort to raise awareness:
• By 2015 the aim is to have at least 20 cities, towns and villages working together as dementia-friendly communities, in which local businesses and organizations support people to live well with dementia, helping them remain independent for longer.
• This fall the Department of Health will fund a high-profile public awareness campaign to raise awareness of dementia, helping ensure people have access to advice on recognizing early signs of dementia, where to get help and support and how to make life easier for people with dementia and their families.
3. Research: Not enough is known about the disease and the level of public participation in dementia research remains low. The government is determined to continue to lead on dementia research:
• The government is more than doubling the funding for research into dementia and neurodegenerative disease.
• The government is increasing the opportunities for people with dementia to participate in high-quality research. Inviting patients to consent will become part of a quality marker for memory clinics. The aim is to recruit 10% of patients into clinical trials.
• The Medical Research Council will invest in dementia research via the BioBank, with an anticipated pilot of 50,000 to 100,000 participants having their brains scanned.
• The Department of Health will fund research into living well with dementia and the Economic and Social Research Council and National Institute for Health Research will launch an initiative for social science research into dementia.