Government must learn lessons from COVID-19 to ensure dementia remains a public health priority

25 June 2020

Alzheimer’s Research UK is strongly urging the government to address the impact COVID-19 has had on people living with dementia and says it has never been a more critical time to invest in dementia research.

The UK’s leading dementia research charity is backing a new report, published today by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), which calls on all governments to dedicate a minimum of 1% of the societal cost of dementia to research. According to the report, the global response to dementia is falling behind and it is feared the pandemic will only heighten challenges in the future.

The report argues that world governments are failing to support the needs of millions of people living with dementia.  Globally, just 31 national response plans for dementia exist, and in the past three years, only five countries (Canada, Chile, Spain, Iceland and Qatar) have created plans. If this rate continues, the World Health Organisation (WHO) target for 146 of its member states to have developed a plan will not be met by 2025.

There are currently estimated to be 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show people with dementia are being hit hardest by COVID-19, are a stark reminder of the need for research to bring about a life-changing treatment for dementia.

Samantha Benham-Hermetz, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The UK government must recognise that the higher COVID-19 death rate in people with dementia has highlighted the need to radically increase our response to the condition through improved prevention, diagnosis and treatments.

“For too long, dementia research has been underfunded compared to other health conditions. The government must learn from the devastating impact COVID-19 is having for people with dementia, so we can pick up the pace in funding for dementia research that will help more people stay connected to their families for longer.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed, through research, to making life-changing breakthroughs possible that will transform the way we approach early detection, risk reduction and treatments for dementia. What we need now is for the Government to deliver on its promise to double the dementia research budget if we are to learn the lessons from COVID-19 and turn the tide on dementia.”