NHS faces ‘collapse’ if more is not done to tackle dementia challenge, warns minister

Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Monday, May 19, 2014
6:30 AM

The government’s care minister has warned that the health and social care system faces “collapse” if more is not done to tackle the challenges of dementia.

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Dementia facts and figures

■ Dementia costs the UK £23bn with 800,000 people living with the condition, with an average cost of £29,746.

■ One in three people over the age of 65 will develop dementia before they die.

■ The number of dementia cases at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital increases by 2pc a year.

■ The number of people living with dementia in Norfolk is set to rise from more than 13,000 to more than 20,000 by 2025 as the county’s population gets older.

■ Dementia diagnosis rates vary from 33pc in West Norfolk to 51pc in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area.

■ Whilst dementia is one of the biggest worries for people as they age, only 3.8p is spent on dementia research compared with every £1 spent on cancer research.

■ Average UK life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th century was just over 40-years-old. Average life expectancy in the UK now is 83-years-old for men and 86 for women.

■ There are currently 100,000 people over the age of 100 in the UK and that number is predicted to grow to 350,000 centenarians by 2050.

Norman Lamb, who is also North Norfolk MP, said Britain was waking up to the fact that Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia were putting a huge strain on society and NHS purse strings.

However, further efforts needed to be made to increase funding to find more effective treatments and cures for dementia, which is caused by more than 120 diseases.

Dementia has been described as a ticking time bomb with the number of people with the condition in Norfolk set to rise from more than 13,000 to over 20,000 over the next 16 years as the county’s population gets older.

Mr Lamb, who hosted an event on Friday to help make Norfolk the first dementia-friendly county in the country, said the government was committed to raising awareness of the condition, improving levels of care, and increasing research funding.

“I think policy makers are aware of the scale of the challenge - it is the biggest challenge in the 21st century in health and social care terms. The whole system would collapse if we do not step up our efforts with dementia and my priorities are with integrated care and progressing integrated care pilots.”
“We have doubled research funding in this parliament but it is a small fraction of cancer funding. We had a G8 summit that set up a global dementia envoy and established a world dementia council to ensure that we find more ways to raise resources for research. We know we can make a big breakthrough - it is some way off - but we need the resources to do it. It has to be a partnership with the private and public sector,” he said.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, which is seen to be a disease of ageing, and is the most common form of dementia.

On Dementia Awareness Week, which started yesterday, the EDP is calling on people to play their part by becoming more dementia friendly and support patients and their families by becoming Dementia Friends.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, which is striving to improve care and support, is setting up 16 dementia hubs in Norfolk and 13 in Suffolk to help patients and their carers.

Willie Cruickshank, director of the alliance, said: “Dementia is currently an incurable, progressive condition, which means the symptoms get progressively worse over time. It was the leading cause of death in British women in 2012, the fifth leading cause of death in men and the most feared health condition in over 55 year olds. Nevertheless, despite recent improvements, the UK government still invests eight times less in dementia research than cancer research.”

“If you’re worried that you, or someone close to you, may have dementia, it can be a difficult subject to talk about. You may feel scared, confused or even ashamed. But if you’re seriously concerned, and the problem continues, it’s important to talk to someone about it. With a timely diagnosis and the right support, there is no reason why people can’t live well with dementia.”

During a special G8 dementia summit in London last year, David Cameron pledged to double dementia research from £66 million in 2015 to £122 million in 2025. He added that the developed world was committed to find “a cure or disease-altering therapy by 2025”.

However, dementia expert Chris Fox, of the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said he did not believe a cure could be found by 2025.

“I speak to biomedical researchers and they wish that pledge had never been made. It is an uncertain world and there has been a lot of money invested in the industry, but it has not gone any further forward and I wish the person who said it had not.”

“They had the G8 meeting last year and there was a lot of talk about dementia, but very little implemented. The additional research funding has not appeared yet.”

“We have been trying to find one common pathway, but you can not get one pill that will cure everyone because there are many causes of different dementia. It is difficult to find that one common pathway,” he said.

See an eight page supplement in today’s EDP on the dementia challenge facing the region, how to spot the signs, tips on preventing dementia, and what can be done to help patients and carers.

Has your family been affected by dementia? Email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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