Fri, 19 April 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Why system change is critical to harness the potential of gene therapies Partner content
By Pfizer UK
How do we fix the UK’s poor mental health and wellbeing challenge? Partner content
Press releases

We have a chance to change the future of dementia


3 min read

It’s hard to shy away from the stark impact of dementia on our society. It remains the leading cause of death in the United Kingdom, a near million Brits are living with it, and it’s on track to be the nation’s most expensive health condition by 2030.

I know from personal experience how dementia impacts individuals and families. We all noticed that my mother initially started getting “forgetful” when we arrived for Sunday lunch and the chicken had not been put in the oven. She was diagnosed with dementia in 2014 and over the last decade has become entirely reliant on others. The failing memory and mental capacity of a previously highly intelligent lady has been traumatic and tragic.

But if there is one thing that dementia research has taught us in the past year, it’s that we’re now at a tipping point for change. We’re witnessing advancements in dementia prevention, diagnostics, and new treatments on a scale we haven’t seen before.  

We must lead the way in taking advantage of the opportunities we have to diminish the fear, harm and heartache of the condition

Developments in imaging and digital technology are enabling researchers to better understand how the brain – previously seen as a completely inaccessible organ – works. Developments in genetics and new drug types are creating novel opportunities for first-of-a-kind treatments, the first of which could be approved in the UK as early as January. New ways of diagnosing dementia earlier and more accurately, like blood tests, are showing great promise.   

Put together, this gives us a real chance of improving the lives of people affected by the condition now, and those at risk of developing it in the future. It also signals an unmissable opportunity to alleviate pressure from our NHS and economy.  

Notable commitments to the field from the UK government over the last decade, including action taken through the UK’s presidency of the G7 in 2013 and the subsequent challenge on dementia, have helped make these breakthroughs a reality. But we must go further. 

Our party has already paved the way to do so ahead of the next general election. We launched the Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission last year, which will help establish the UK as a world leader in dementia research and increase opportunities for people to participate in research across the country.  

But it doesn’t stop at the science. We must take forth what we learn from research and make sure people who can benefit from these breakthroughs do so. The potential arrival of life-changing treatments creates a new sense of urgency for improving the accuracy and speed at which dementia is diagnosed, so people can access treatments. According to Alzheimer's Research UK, if a new treatment was approved tomorrow only two per cent of people eligible would be able to receive it. 

Tackling this requires us not only to invest in infrastructure and diagnostic equipment, but also in the people at the heart of the health service. Lumbar punctures are an effective tool for diagnosing dementia, but if we’re going to increase the number of them taking place in the NHS from 2,000 to 20,000 per year, we need to recruit and retain nurses across the UK.  

During my time as a health minister, I came to fully comprehend how a renewed focus on prevention and research will transform our ability to treat conditions such as dementia. At this crucial time for dementia, we must lead the way in taking advantage of the opportunities we have to diminish the fear, harm and heartache of the condition. I know this sentiment is echoed across my constituents and Brits nationwide, and I urge fellow MPs across all parties to feel the same. 


Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon

PoliticsHome Newsletters

Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.