Dementia is top challenge for NHS in next 70 years, according to new survey

02 July 2018

One in four UK adults say they believe dementia is the biggest health challenge facing the NHS in the next 70 years according to a new survey commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity.

The YouGov poll asked participants to consider the cost to the NHS and the number of people affected in each of eight disease areas, including cancer, heart disease and mental health conditions. A quarter of adults selected dementia, the highest percentage for any disease area.

As the NHS marks its 70th birthday this week, Alzheimer’s Research UK is calling on the government and NHS to prioritise three pivotal areas to meet the challenges posed by dementia:

  1. Revolutionise dementia diagnosis, ensuring people with the condition today receive a timely and accurate diagnosis while also working to diagnose the diseases that cause dementia 15-20 years earlier than we do today.
  2. Foster research and innovation by increasing funding for dementia research, encouraging people to join dementia research, creating channels for global collaborative research, and preparing now for future dementia treatments.
  3. Change the way society thinks of brain health and increase awareness that dementia risk reduction begins in midlife.

The findings of this survey come as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) announce an additional £215m in funding to develop solutions to major health issues, including those associated with ageing, in the next 10 years.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said,

“There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, a number projected to grow to 1 million in just three years at a cost of £30bn to the UK economy annually. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to address the challenges presented by dementia or our health system will not be able to cope.

“We have seen positive progress in treating people with dementia on the NHS in recent decades, but that progress must not stagnate. The additional funding toward major health issues is a welcome contribution, but we must see greater dedicated financial resource put toward dementia research if we are to diagnose dementia earlier and bring about life-changing treatments.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK is leading discussions to help facilitate change and prepare for future treatments. In spring 2018, the charity launched the Dementia Access Taskforce to bring together government, pharmaceutical companies and people affected by dementia to begin acting today to address potential hurdles future dementia treatments could face so they reach people who would benefit without delay.

The survey also found that adults aged 55 and older were more likely to name dementia as the greatest challenge to the NHS (35% of respondents) compared to 18-24 year-olds (10% of respondents), who were more likely to choose mental health conditions than any other disease area.