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Press releases

This is manifestly the moment for dementia to be made a priority

James White, Head of National Influencing

James White, Head of National Influencing | Alzheimer’s Society

4 min read Partner content

Dementia is the biggest health and social care challenge of our time. It is the UK’s biggest killer.

Dementia devastates lives and research released last week from Carnall Farrar commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society reveals that this terminal condition costs the UK economy an eye-watering £42billion every year.

During the run-up to the General Election on July 4th, Alzheimer’s Society will be calling on candidates from all parties to acknowledge the scale and urgency of the problem – and commit to making dementia a priority.

It is estimated that almost 1 million people in the UK are living with dementia and this is forecast to balloon to 1.4million by 2040, with the biggest increases anticipated in Northern Ireland (51%) and London (53%).

By this time, if dementia continues to be under-prioritised, the cost of dementia will be £90bn.

Early and accurate diagnosis

Yet over a third of people affected do not have a diagnosis.

Just 1.4% of dementia healthcare costs are spent on diagnosis and treatment.

Early and accurate diagnosis of dementia is the opportunity the next government needs to take – for our economy, for our society and for individuals affected by dementia.

Diagnosis opens the door to care, support and being able to make plans for the future.  It means people can take part in clinical trials which are vital if we want to secure the breakthroughs which are so desperately needed in dementia.

The dementia diagnosis rate targets, in England and across the UK, are nowhere near ambitious enough. For no other condition would it be acceptable for so many people to be in the dark about their diagnosis.  

This year it’s even more important to start prioritising dementia as the first ever drugs which appear to slow down Alzheimer’s disease may be approved for use on the NHS. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, estimated to account for at least 60% of cases*

To access these drugs, people need a diagnosis which is early as these drugs are most effective early on. They also need a specific Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis which is confirmed by a specialist test.

Only around 2% of people get these specialist tests.

Healthcare system preparedness is key, which requires investment in diagnostic equipment and a specialised workforce.  

Whilst there is hope for the future with treatments in the pipeline, there are also hundreds of thousands of people living with dementia who are reliant on the social care system now and may never be eligible for these new drugs.

It is vital we have a social care system set up to provide quality, personalised care, delivered by a well-trained and supported workforce. 

Dementia also places a huge responsibility on the shoulders of unpaid carers and the health and social care system must support them.

In line with increasing numbers of people living with dementia, the need for unpaid care will grow significantly by 2040 with 43% more people expected to require unpaid care.

This is seriously worrying when already a third of unpaid carers spend more than 100 hours caring per week, and 16% had to give up work to care.

The next government must:

1. Increase dementia diagnosis rates and get the system ready for new dementia drugs:

New, ambitious dementia diagnosis rate targets should be set, accompanied by funded plans to deliver early, accurate diagnosis at scale.

Plans must be published by healthcare systems across the UK on how these drugs will be delivered.

2. Deliver a social care workforce strategy

We need a long-term social care workforce strategy so that we have enough well-trained and supported staff to provide high-quality, personalised dementia care to everyone who needs it. 

The strategy must include a requirement for dementia training for all staff supporting people living with dementia to Tier 2 of the Dementia Training Standards Framework or equivalent. 

Fix diagnosis

Dementia is an existential threat to the health and social care system.

As the disease progresses, total costs increase significantly, rising from £29,000 per year for mild dementia to £81,000 for severe dementia. 

Early and accurate diagnosis will help shift the dial on dementia.

Whoever forms the next government should see fixing dementia diagnosis as an opportunity – fix dementia and you can help the overstretched health and social care service.

Fix dementia diagnosis and you can stop people affected by dementia plunging into crisis and facing catastrophic costs.

Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s biggest dementia charity and we want to work with you.

Contact us:

*Alzheimer’s Association

** The new research on economic impact was undertaken by CF (Carnall Farrar Ltd), a leading healthcare consulting and data science company. A full copy of the report can be downloaded here

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