Dementia’s conspicuous absence

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By Kirsty Marais | Wednesday 01 August 2018

An open letter to Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

With your recently-announced priorities for the health and social care system and those set out by Simon Stevens for NHS England’s 10-year plan, we are deeply concerned that dementia has not been recognised in these top areas of focus.

It is difficult to imagine any strategic plan that fails to acknowledge the UK’s leading cause of death.

Support for areas like cancer, respiratory diseases and circulatory diseases has resulted in lower mortality rates. But support for dementia lags behind. Just last year UK dementia death rates increased to 13 percent and access to social care support remains woefully inadequate. Dementia costs the UK economy over £26bn annually – more than cancer and heart disease combined.

Dementia presents the greatest health challenge of our time, but we can act today to change this.

Dementia must be named as a top priority in the NHS 10-year plan. A recent poll shows UK adults believe dementia is one of the top three health conditions the NHS should focus on over the next decade.

Government must increase funding for dementia research to widen the search for effective treatments and plan for their swift delivery. We must improve early detection and accurate diagnosis, and provide greater support following diagnosis to better the lives of families living with the condition today. And we must see government-led public health campaigns to increase awareness of dementia and how people can reduce their risk.

We must end the inequity people with dementia face by reforming the social care system. We request dementia care is made a top priority in the social care green paper due in the autumn. With the ageing society in the UK and the huge burden this will place on the care system, it is imperative provisions are made so that people with dementia and their carers get the support they need and can live well with dignity.

We ask you to put dementia and the millions impacted by the condition at the heart of your priorities, ensuring the NHS and social care system improve the care of people with dementia and prepare the way for future treatments.


With respect,

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive, Alzheimer’s Research UK
Jim Pearson, Director of Policy, Alzheimer Scotland,
Dr Hilda Hayo, Chief Admiral Nurse and Chief Executive, Dementia UK


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Kirsty Marais