G8 Summit on Dementia

Ahead of the G8 summit, David Cameron has said that the UK will aim to double its annual funding for dementia research to £132m by 2025, which is up from the 2015 target of £66m.

The global number of dementia sufferers is expected to treble to 135m by 2050 and there is growing concern that some countries will simply not cope with the growing burden of dementia. The disease is heading towards becoming the biggest health and care problem of a generation, yet it does not receive adequate funding.

In the UK, about £590m spent on cancer research with £267m coming from government. At the moment £52m of government money goes to dementia research. This is a pattern reflected around the world.

According to the World Health Organisation dementia costs the world billions of dollars each year: £370bn ($604bn) in 2010.

Health ministers from the G8 nations will meet today to find the best ways to advance research. David Cameron has called on the government, industry and charities to commit more funding. He said government would boost annual research funding from £66m, the 2015 pledge, to £132m, which will be adjusted for inflation, by 2025. He said, “if we are to beat dementia, we must also work globally, with nations, business and scientists from all over the world working together as we did with cancer, and with HIV and Aids. Today, we will get some of the most powerful nations around the table in London to agree how we must go forward together, working towards that next big breakthrough.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “this mustn’t be about paying lip service to dementia, it must be about actually changing things – and the biggest thing we can do is make sure we have a proper diagnosis to people. By the end of this Parliament we will have doubled the money going into dementia research, so there is a real increase happening, and we have put £0.5bn into additional support for carers.”

Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary said that David Cameron “is right to focus on it and Labour will give the important commitment to research cross-party support. The sad reality is too many people with dementia are not getting the support they need at home and are ending up at A&E in increasing numbers. These are problems of this government’s making.”

The Alzheimer’s Society charity said the summit was a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

Chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: “Given that this is the first time a prime minister has used the presidency of the G8 to take action on a single disease, we are expecting a rallying cry from the UK government. As we enter the summit today, the UK must show an injection of ambition, commitment to a long-term strategy and more funding.”

Ahead of the summit today there have been a number of funding announcements from:

  • The Medical Research Council (MRC) – they will commit £50m to improve treatments and delay the progression of the disease
  • The Alzheimer’s Society – which has promised to spend at least £100m on research in the next decade
  • A new £3m “Dementia Consortium” – which will unite the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, two pharmaceutical companies and MRC Technology in the hunt for new drugs

A spokesperson from Alzheimer’s Research UK said, “it will be heartening to thousands of people living with dementia to see the UK leading the way in dementia research and know that scientists are fighting for them. We boast some of the world’s leading scientists in dementia, and these announcements are a clear backing of their crucial work – this support must continue. We hope this package of announcements will set a good example to other G8 nations to galvanise international research efforts.”

Meanwhile, CQC has announced its plan to inspect 150 English care homes and hospitals. CQC said they will look at what needed improving, how to cut hospital admissions from care homes and ways to help people with dementia maintain their physical and mental well-being.

Chief executive David Behan said, “we know that these people are often vulnerable because of their condition and can rely on a number of services across health and social care to support their physical, mental and social well-being. Our findings will draw conclusions on a national scale about what works well and where improvements are required.”

A national report on the issue will also be published in May.

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