The Health and Social Care Secretary has announced a new 10-year plan to tackle dementia and boost funding into research to better understand neurodegenerative diseases. The plan will be published later this year.
Speaking at Alzheimer’s Society Conference 2022, the Health and Social Care Secretary confirmed the 10-year plan will focus on how new medicines and emerging science and technology can be harnessed to improve outcomes for dementia patients across the country.
Reducing the dementia backlog
The Government hopes that record NHS funding will help reduce the Covid-19 backlog of dementia diagnoses, with 30,000 people facing delays during the pandemic. The Government believes that this will ensure timely support for the more than 900,000 believed to be living with dementia in the UK.
“Reform takes time. And you need to take people with you. But it’s a journey we’ve already begun – and it’s a challenge this government is unafraid to take on.”Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid
The plan will also focus on supporting people with their specific health and care needs while living with dementia.
Addressing the conference, the Secretary of State appraised progress on dementia to date. Suggesting that:
“I think one of the reasons why we haven’t made as much progress on dementia as we would like is because it’s going to take some pretty seismic shifts, both in terms of the architecture of health and care and our own approach.
“That’s hard to do. Reform takes time. And you need to take people with you. But it’s a journey we’ve already begun – and it’s a challenge this government is unafraid to take on.
“Our plans for adult social care will help improve experiences for people with dementia and their families: with a far more generous means-testing, a cap on life-time costs to increase support and development for our phenomenal workforce.”
One million people living with dementia by 2025
Experts predict that one million people will be living with dementia by 2025 and that this number will grow to 1.6 million by 2040.
Work was started by the UK government to tackle the global dementia challenge at the first G8 dementia summit in 2013.
Paying tribute to then Prime Minister, Sajid Javid recalled a full cabinet meeting where David Cameron invited Alzheimer’s UK to speak. He said, “they enrolled us all as ‘dementia friends’, and even all these years later now I’m Health and Social Care Secretary, I still reflect on what I learned back then.”
The Challenge on Dementia 2020 was another milestone, which saw one million care workers and one million NHS workers receiving dementia awareness training.
The Government has committed £375 million into research on neurodegenerative diseases over the next five years and the Health and Social Care Secretary has committed to working across government to boost this further.
The Government has also committed to working with those who best understand dementia, including Alzheimer’s Society, ahead of setting out plans for tackling dementia.
Javid told the conference, “Tens of thousands of people are still missing out on a dementia diagnosis each year because they confuse key symptoms with getting old.”
Up to 40% of dementia is considered potentially preventable. What is good for the heart is also good for the brain, which is why the strategy will also include actions to tackle high blood pressure, physical inactivity, alcohol and obesity, and to promote healthy eating.
‘Seismic shift’ needed
Associate Director of Advocacy and System Change at the Alzheimer’s Society, Mark MacDonald said: “The secretary of state today spoke of the ‘seismic shift’ needed in dementia diagnosis and care and a bold 10-year plan that gives the UK’s largest killer the attention it needs.
“However, his words will mean nothing if not backed by equally ambitious funding and delivery mechanisms which put people with dementia at their heart, and who need to see tangible change now. We have now been waiting more than two years for the promised dementia moonshot to double research funding, which will help us improve care and find a cure.
“For too long government action has not matched the scale and impact of dementia. We welcome the secretary of state’s ambitious words today but we must now see this translate quickly into meaningful delivery plans for which ministers should be held accountable.”
Other plans to support those with dementia
The Government has said that it has produced a package of measures to help those with dementia, including:
- the Government’s social care charging reforms, with more generous means testing and a lifetime cap on care costs
- the integration white paper to better link health and social care systems
- the Health and Care Act, which will put the person at the centre of care, with local systems designed to deliver seamless care and support people in retaining their independence, health and wellbeing
- levelling up healthcare and reducing disparities across the country so everyone has the chance to live longer and healthier lives, wherever they come from and regardless of their background
Most of us will be touched by dementia at some point in out lifetimes. Whether personally or through a loved one, the impact to people’s lives is incalculable.
The Government knows that this is a major timebomb waiting to happen – already the NHS is at capacity with patients unable to access adequate care and the costs will only increase.
The Government’s 10-year plan is a milestone in being able to tackle the issue head on, but there will need to be new treatments, new care pathways and more carers – none of which will be cheap.
As the Secretary of State looks to roll out his new vision, attention must be given to the consideration of implementation. That is why the NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission will be looking specifically at neurodegenerative conditions. Commissioners will map ways that implementation can be effectively delivered and access arrangements for the latest medicines and technologies can be reformed.
Click here to find out more about the Commission.