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UK government launches new dementia programme

Published on 26/03/12 at 03:07pm

The government has signalled its intention to boost dementia funding and awareness with its new ‘challenge on dementia’ campaign. 

In a speech given today, the prime minister David Cameron promised that the research budget for dementia would be doubled to £66 million by 2015.

He also said he wanted to see diagnosis and awareness of the condition improved - dementia is thought to affect around 800,000 people in the UK, with the cost to society estimated at £23 billion per year.

To combat this the Department of Health will introduce financial rewards for hospitals that assess patients for dementia.

From April up to £54 million will be made available to hospitals in England that offer risk assessments to 90% of over-75 year olds admitted as emergencies.

The DH will also run a public campaign in the autumn to focus on early signs of dementia awareness, where to get help and support, and how to make life easier for people with dementia and their families.

Cameron said: “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.” He added the issue should be treated as a ‘national crisis’.

This coincides with the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘Dementia 2012’ report, which highlights the strength of Alzheimer’s research in the UK. 

But the report also pointed out that three-quarters of people in the UK feel that society is not geared up to deal with dementia. 

It also found that 61% of people diagnosed with dementia are left feeling lonely, with 77% anxious or depressed, and nearly half have lost friends to Alzheimer's.

Its chief executive Jeremy Hughes said the government’s new plan was an ‘unprecedented step’ towards improving care. 

Dr Michael Hutton, chief scientific officer of neurodegeneration at Lilly, lauded pharma’s success in bringing new treatments to market.

But he added: “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 dementia, whereas failure would require an adjustment in the focus of current therapeutic development and research.”

Ben Adams 

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