***AUGUST 2022 UPDATE - Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission***
I am pleased that the Prime Minister has launched a national mission to tackle dementia in honour of Dame Barbara Windsor, doubling research funding by 2024 to beat this awful disease.
Up to 40% of dementia cases are potentially preventable, but clinical trials remain under-resourced and causes are still poorly understood. That is why the Prime Minister launched the ‘Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission’ on 14 August, ringfencing £95 million to speed up research with a new Covid vaccine-style Taskforce, boosting the number of clinical trials and delivering on our manifesto commitment to double dementia research by 2024, reaching a total of £160 million a year.
More clinical trials are needed but these are often overly time consuming, with resources wasted on trying to find volunteers. The Prime Minister has issued a call for volunteers with or without a family history of dementia to come forward and sign up for clinical trials for preventative therapies, nicknamed “Babs’ Army.’ Volunteers can register their interest through the Join Dementia Research website. The new taskforce, combined with the extra funding, will work to reduce the cost of trials while speeding up delivery. Existing National Institute for Health and Care Research infrastructure will be used, building on new ways of working pioneered during covid vaccination clinical trials.
Together, we can beat this awful disease and honour an exceptional woman who campaigned tirelessly for change. For more information on the 'Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission', please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-launches-dame-barbara-windsor-dementia-mission--2?deliveryName=DM11505.
JULY 2022 Campaign
As a Whip, I have to remain impartial in this leadership contest and I am therefore unable to publicly state who I am backing. However, I was proud to stand on a manifesto that identified finding a cure for dementia as one of the Government's biggest priorities, which has been reflected in the development of the new 10-Year Plan for Dementia, and I have organised a Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) in Westminster to discuss ways to raise awareness and increase understanding and accessibility for people living with Dementia.
As we all get older dementia is a huge public health issue and by 2040 over 1.6 million of us in the UK will have received a diagnosis. That is why it is vital that the Government takes action to encourage prevention and continue to fund new treatments and potential cures. I am proud of the Conservative Party’s record in government on dementia research. The first G8 dementia summit in 2013 changed the attitude towards the disease and in 2016 the Government successfully launched the Challenge on Dementia 2020 which has seen over 1 million NHS staff and 1 million social care workers receive dementia awareness training.
THE 10-YEAR PLAN FOR DEMENTIA:
The Government is making good progress in creating the 10 Year Plan and it will be published later on this year. It has three main focuses on ensuring the newest medicines are readily available, emerging science and technology is applied quickly and efficiently and outcomes for patients continue to improve. It will also cover those with dementia and their carers and will include diagnosis, risk reduction and prevention and research. The Government is consulting the Dementia Programme Board alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society in formulating this strategy.
NHS England currently have the Well Pathway for Dementia and this 10 Year Plan will build on this further. The Well Plan designed for health and social care staff sets out five main areas – Preventing Well, Diagnosing Well, Supporting Well, Living Well and Dying Well. It ensures that patients and families will always receive the best support and advice at every stage.
Another key element that the plan will focus on is the 40% of cases of dementia that are preventable and will provide the actions we can all take to limit our chances of contracting the disease. The establishment of the Office of Health Disparities last year aims to focus the Government on breaking the link between your background and how this informs your prospects in life and reducing inequalities in health outcomes around the country.
Dementia is not a given part of the aging process and there can be interventions and advice given to improve brain health. Health and care professionals can access the ‘All Our Health’ Dementia information which sets out guidance in detail in how best dementia can be prevented. This includes maintaining a good blood pressure, regular exercise, a healthy weight, limited alcohol intake and stopping smoking. 15 million people aged 40-74 are eligible for an NHS Health Check and an awareness of how to maintain a healthy brain is included as part of this.
The Conservative Party 2019 Manifesto did include a commitment to a ‘Moonshot’ in increased funding and it is a pledge I was proud to support. However, the pandemic did have a huge effect on the attention this important area could receive, as the priority of the Government quite rightly turned to dealing with Covid. Now the attention can turn back.
One of the largest consequences of Covid was the large increase in the backlog of treatment and dementia care is no different. That is why I was proud to support the record NHS funding settlement and an additional £17 million was allocated last year to deal specifically with the dementia treatment waiting lists. The NHS is also piloting a new advanced diagnosis dementia tool and the ability of GP’s to provide a dementia diagnosis quicker so that patients can enter into treatments much faster.
Funding commitments made pre-pandemic can now begin to get back on track. A new £5 billion investment has now been allocated to health-related research and development for the most pressing health areas and this includes dementia. £375 million has also been awarded for research into neurodegenerative diseases over the next five years.
Carers, particularly those who are unpaid and often family members, play a huge role in looking after people who have dementia. There are an estimated 900,000 people currently living with dementia and therefore a similar number of carers. Part of the aims for the new 10 Year Plan will include the work of carers, ensuring there continues to be less stigma and barriers to talking about dementia, the effects that it has on the whole family and ensuring there is better support and care that is readily available.
The Government is working with NHS Trusts to ensure they are aware of the support options available to them, including respite options. Carers are entitled to an assessment to see how their needs can be met. I would always encourage all employers to allow for flexibility to be in place for unpaid carers so that they can continue to contribute to the workplace. I know that the NHS also supports the Dementia Change Action Network that can be accessed by carers of dementia sufferers so that they can receive personalised care.
HEALTH & CARE ACT 2022:
I was proud to support the Government’s Health and Care Act as it delivered the change that NHS leaders wanted following the publication of the NHS Ten Year Plan. It integrates services across the NHS and ensures they have a better working relationship and communication with the social care sector through new Integrated Care Services and Boards. It puts the patient at the heart to deliver seamless care and support no matter their needs and requirements. It also ensures the NHS can be held to account by the Secretary of State and Parliament much better so that they have greater oversight over NHS England’s enhanced powers.
I believe increasing public awareness and understanding of dementia among the wider public is vital to ensure that people are supported to live well with the condition. There are over 3 million Dementia Friends in the UK and my whole office has taken Dementia Friends training.
Research is crucial to understanding and tackling dementia. In 2017, the Government launched the UK Dementia Research Institute, in partnership with the Alzheimer's Society and Alzheimer's Research UK, with £290m funding, the single biggest investment ever made in the UK in this field. Under the Challenge on Dementia 2020 strategy, the Government's commitment to spend over £300m on dementia research between 2015 and 2020 was met a year early, with £341m being spent by March 2019 through the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department of Health and Social Care. The Government is also supporting the £79 million Accelerating Detection of Disease challenge, a project bringing together the NHS, industry and leading charities to support research into the early diagnosis of disease, including dementia.
By the end of 2020, all relevant staff were scheduled to have received appropriate dementia training, including training relevant staff to be able to signpost interested individuals towards research via the Join Dementia Research Service. I understand that good progress has been made against this goal, and more options are currently being explored to increase take-up of more advanced training among those who need it.
There is a commitment to improving detection, with more targeted screening and Rapid Access Diagnostic Centres, so that in 10 years’ time these measures will help achieve 55,000 more people surviving cancer each year, and 100,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases being prevented.