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Press Release

Press Releases

No 10: Making the UK a world leader in dementia care and research

The Prime Minister will today announce measures aimed at making the UK a world leader in dementia care and research, including doubling overall funding for dementia research to reach £66m by 2015.

As part of his ‘National Challenge on Dementia’, the Prime Minister will say that dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our time which requires an all-out fight-back by everyone in society to find new and better treatments, improve the lives of those already living with dementia and increase the rate of diagnosis.

670,000 people are known to have dementia in England, with only 42 per cent of those with dementia diagnosed. This means around 400,000 people do not know they are living with dementia. The number of people developing the disease will reach one million in the next 10 years.

The Prime Minister will outline three key areas where Government aims to make a difference:

o make sure our health and social care systems are properly geared up to deal with the crisis;

o radically step up research into cures and treatments;

o get the whole of society involved in the fight: communities, charities, businesses.

The Prime Minister is expected to say:

“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.

“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.

“Already a quarter of hospital beds are occupied by someone with dementia. Already the total cost of the disease is around £19 billion – that is higher than the costs of cancer, heart disease or stroke. And in less than ten years, as we all live longer lives, the number of sufferers will reach a million.

“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.

“Now we’ve got to do the same with dementia. This is a personal priority of mine, and it’s got an ambition to match.

“That ambition: nothing less than for Britain to be a world leader in dementia research and care.”

ON RESEARCH FUNDING

More than doubling overall funding for dementia research to £66m by 2015: The combined value of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Medical Research Council (MRC) and Economic Research Council (ESRC) funding for research into dementia will increase from £26.6m in 2009/10 to an estimated £66.3m in 2014/15. [figures for some of the individual research projects outlined below span more than one year and so are not directly comparable with the headline annual figures of £26.6m and £66.3m]

Major investment in brain scanning: Medical Research Council (MRC), with other funders, will exploit the rich resource of the UK Biobank project. This long term programme has already recruited 500,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69. It will be the largest study in the world to determine the environmental and genetic factors that influence how we age, including the risks of developing dementia. The MRC anticipate piloting the brain scanning and rolling out to100,000 volunteers to identify factors associated with the earlier onset of dementia and of poorer prognosis.

£13m funding for social science research on dementia: The ESRC and the NIHR are joint funding a major new initiative for a programme of interdisciplinary research on 'Living well with dementia'. The commissioning process will be managed by the ESRC, and will begin as soon as possible. The work will help to ensure that the UK is a world leader in developing evidence-based interventions and care.

£36m funding over the next five years for a new NIHR Dementia Translational Research Collaboration: Its purpose is to pull discoveries from the country’s top basic scientific dementia research into real benefits for patients. The collaboration will involve NIHR and Biomedical Research Centres which focus on dementia-themed research. They will share their considerable resources and world-leading expertise to improve treatment and care.

KEY STATISTICS

Number of people with dementia: There are an estimated 670,000 people in England with dementia and numbers are expected to double within thirty years.

Fear of dementia: A YouGov poll, published 15 August 2011, showed that 39% of over 55s most feared getting Alzheimer’s disease, as compared to 25% who most feared getting cancer. The next two most feared conditions were stroke and motor neurone disease at 8%.

Cost of dementia: The Dementia UK report (2007) estimated that dementia cost society £17bn and this has now risen to £23bn for the UK and £19bn for England.

Diagnosis rate: The average diagnosis rate, number of people diagnosed as compared to expected prevalence, for dementia is 42% and varies across PCTs from around 29% to 67%.

Shirley Cramer, Acting Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The Prime Minister talks of dementia as a quiet crisis, but today he has sounded the alarm. Mr Cameron has doubled public funding for dementia research, something for which we have long campaigned. This is an important step towards recognising both the scale of our dementia challenge and the scientific talent we have in the UK to solve it.

“David Cameron's announcements are a turning point in our battle to defeat dementia. Of course, investment must continue to increase if we are to avert the drastic economic costs of dementia that lie in wait. 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."

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

“Today's announcement by the Prime Minister marks 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.

“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.”

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

"Three quarters of a million people in the UK are already living with dementia, creating a challenge for health and social care that will become more acute as the population profile ages. Rising to this challenge will require excellence in medical research, so we can better understand the biology of dementia and use that insight to improve diagnosis and treatment.

"The dementia challenge, however, will not be resolved by the natural sciences alone. It will also require progress in social care, so that patients can be helped to live at home for longer, and so that relatives who care for their loved ones receive the support they need. And it will require action to raise awareness of this devastating condition, so that it is understood and not stigmatised. The social sciences thus have a critical role to play too. I look forward to working with the Prime Minister to champion the important field of dementia research."

Dr Michael Hutton, Chief Scientific Officer of Neurodegeneration, Eli Lilly and Company Ltd, said:

"Lilly is a global company and our investment decisions are driven by many different factors. The Prime Minister's announcements are a clear step in the right direction to making the UK a prime location to conduct dementia research.

“Eli Lilly and Company has been focused on Alzheimer’s Disease research for over 20 years, collaborating with the world’s best scientists across industry and academia. The result of these combined efforts, and those of other pharmaceutical companies, is the existence of a handful of potential new disease modifying therapies nearing the end of clinical trials.

“We are entering a critical period in the history of dementia, in which successful trial outcomes would require that healthcare systems adjust to a paradigm shift in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Lilly remains committed to the discovery of a disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer’s and the development of more effective symptomatic therapies that will aim to improve the lives of patients and reduce the burden of Alzheimer’s Disease on health and social care systems throughout the world.”

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