Press release

PM launches next phase of Britain’s fight against dementia

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

David Cameron sets out a new, long-term strategy focused on boosting research, improving care and raising public awareness about dementia.

Britain will expand its efforts to combat dementia over the next 5 years, the Prime Minister David Cameron said today as he set out a new, long-term strategy focused on boosting research, improving care and raising public awareness about the condition.

Britain has emerged as the world leader in fighting dementia since 2010 with investment in research doubled, hundreds of thousands of NHS staff given specialist training and 1 million ‘Dementia Friends’ taking part in awareness sessions across the country.

The Prime Minister wants to build on that momentum both in the UK and worldwide. The Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 is the next phase in the country’s effort to combat the condition and includes:

Over £300m invested in UK research

The UK government will invest over £300 million into UK research and medical innovation, backing the country’s world-leading science and medical sectors to lead the way in discovering the next big breakthrough. Annual investment in UK research is expected to double by 2025. Alongside this effort, an international dementia institute will be established in England within 5 years, helping to make the UK a world leader for research on dementia and medical trials. It is hoped the number of people taking part in dementia research will double in that time and a new online and telephone service to facilitate people taking part in dementia research studies will be launched next week.

New global fund on dementia

A separate multi-million pound fund will be launched within weeks to help establish a large-scale, international investment scheme to discover new drugs and treatment that could slow down the onset of dementia or even deliver a cure by 2025. The fund will see investors from the private, public and philanthropic sectors unite under a single scheme to finance a range of research projects identified by scientists as having the best potential for future success.

One million NHS staff trained

All NHS staff – some 1.3 million people – will now be required to undergo training in dementia so that people have the know-how and understanding to provide the best possible standards in care, from hospital porters to surgeons.

Three million more ‘Dementia Friends’

A world-leading call to action on dementia will see 3 million more trained to understand about dementia and how to best support people who may have the condition. Members of the public will be able to take part in free sessions in schools, church halls or their own work places. By 2020 the majority of people in England will be living in towns and cities that have been transformed into dementia-friendly communities., making shops, transport and other public places accessible to people with dementia. Business will play its part, with M&S, Asda, Argos, Homebase and Lloyd’s banking group training staff to be become Dementia Friends.

Faster assessments, better care for all

Nationally, initial dementia assessments will take place in an average of 6 weeks, followed by better support post-diagnosis. GP diagnosis rates have increased from 42% to 59% in just 3 years but too many people are waiting up to 6 months for a full assessment, causing worry and uncertainty for people and their families. This will no longer be tolerated. There will also be a greater focus on the support given to people following their diagnosis such as giving people with dementia better information about the services available locally, as well as advice and support for carers.

Announcing the plan, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:

Dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime, and I am proud that we are leading the world in fighting it.

Because of the growing strength of our economy, we can invest in research and drug-development, as well as public understanding, so we defeat this terrible condition and offer more hope and dignity for those who suffer.

That way, we can help make Britain a country that offers security in retirement for all.

Dementia is a growing problem. In 10 years it is expected there will be one million people living with dementia in the UK.

The Prime Minister has made it a key priority to overhaul the UK’s approach to dementia, launching the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia in 2012, and hosting the first-ever dedicated G8 event on dementia in 2013 to secure greater global cooperation between leading nations.

Significant progress has been made in improving health and care for people with dementia and carers, creating dementia friendly communities, and boosting dementia research.

This includes:

  • introducing the first-ever World Dementia Envoy, spearheading a global approach to the fight against dementia, driven through the G8 dementia summit in 2013

  • over 437,920 NHS staff have already received dementia training and more than 100,000 social care workers have received dementia awareness training, more than any other country worldwide

  • there are now 1 million dementia friends and 82 areas across England have signed up become dementia-friendly communities

  • diagnosis rates in the UK are the highest in the world, increased from 42% to 59% and on track to reach two thirds, ensuring more people than ever before get the care and support they need.

  • the UK has doubled research funding since 2009 to over £66m in 2015. This investment includes major research on issues that matter to people with dementia and their carers, such as the world’s largest – £20 million – social science research programme on dementia. It also includes Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), a 5-year £53 million public private partnership led by the Medical Research Council, the world’s largest dementia population study.

  • we have achieved a world-leading 52% fall in the level of prescribing of antipsychotic medication to people with dementia

The number of people living with dementia worldwide today is estimated at 44 million people, set to almost double by 2030.

The cost to healthcare is huge, with dementia now one of the greatest pressures on healthcare systems around the world. It costs an incredible estimated £370 billion (US $604 billion) – about 1% of the world’s GDP. And, without urgent action this is set to rise.

However, global spending on dementia is at 5 times below research on cancer, with only 3 new drugs making it onto the market in the last 15 years.

The World Dementia Envoy, Dennis Gillings, said:

We have momentum. Awareness of dementia is increasing and action is being taken, and that will ensure the condition is managed far better in our society. More treatments are on the horizon but we must continue to invest in research and drug development. David Cameron’s outstanding leadership is having huge effect.

Simon Lovestone, Professor of Translational Neuroscience, University of Oxford, said:

Dementia is the biggest single problem facing health services today. Worldwide, it poses an enormous challenge and demands an urgent and substantial response from governments and from the research community.

In the UK we are rising to this challenge and with the Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Alliance, launched this week, with the Dementias Platform UK launched at the beginning of the year and with the network of Biomedical Research Centres and Units for dementia funded by the NIHR, together with this commitment for substantial increased in funding for research and innovation, we are in a good position to lead, collaboratively across Europe, North America and beyond, a substantial fight against this terrible disease.

The opportunity, which I think we have a realistic chance of delivering on, is novel therapies for dementia that will slow down, and perhaps even prevent Alzheimer’s and similar diseases.

Hilary Evans, Charity Director, Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

Over the past 3 years we’ve seen the Prime Minister’s challenge play a pivotal role in creating a heightened focus on dementia and boosting the case for more research. Alzheimer’s Research UK is proud to have spearheaded the research challenge and successfully launched a number of pioneering global initiatives that will bring us ever closer to finding a cure.

Since 2012, we’ve launched a £100 million fundraising campaign which, in addition to our existing research projects, will see a pioneering new Stem Cell Research Centre, a powerful network of world-class Drug Discovery Institutes to fast-track new treatments and a Global Clinical Trials Fund to allow new treatments to reach people sooner.

Today represents an opportunity to reflect on the progress made so far, but we owe it to the 850,000 people in the UK with dementia to build on this work with even bolder commitments. It is vital that we continue to energise a movement across society to improve the lives of people with dementia and that research into the condition continues to be a priority.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said:

Our researchers, staff and volunteers who are delivering support to people with dementia nationwide now sit as part of a national movement more than a million strong. Dementia Friends is truly changing attitudes and capturing the public’s attention. Together we are transforming lives today and reaching out for preventative treatments and a cure tomorrow. This government has rightly prioritised dementia. We would all acknowledge the work that remains to be done, but the PM deserves credit for the phenomenal achievement in getting dementia on the national and global agenda and this has resulted in significant progress.

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Dementia, said:

Awareness of dementia is at its highest level and to have 1 million Dementia Friends shows the enormous strides we have taken in the last 3 years.

We are beginning to change the way society respects and treats people with dementia. We can change the lives of tens of thousands of people for the better if we can continue to raise awareness, invest in the search for new treatments, and most importantly improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England said:

The sheer scale of the challenge posed by dementia means we all need to work together to address it. Public Health England is doing all it can to raise awareness of this disease and in helping the public and businesses support people living with the disease by becoming Dementia Friends.