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Volume 542: debated on Monday 26 March 2012

Today, the Prime Minister launches his challenge on dementia to tackle one of the most important issues we face arising from an ageing population. The challenge sets out the Government’s ambition to increase diagnosis rates, raise awareness and understanding and to strengthen substantially our research efforts.

Dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face as a society and we are determined to transform the quality of dementia care for patients and their families. In England today an estimated 670,000 people are living with dementia, a number that is increasing with one in three people set to develop dementia in the future.

England was one of the first countries in the world to have a national dementia strategy and progress has been made since the launch of the strategy in 2009. But we are determined to do more to address this challenge.

The Prime Minister’s challenge sets out three key areas where we want to go further and faster, building on the progress made through the national dementia strategy. The three areas are:

driving improvements in health and care;

creating dementia-friendly communities that understand how to help; and

better research.

We know that we need to do more to raise diagnosis rates for people with dementia, with an estimated 42% of people with dementia currently having a diagnosis. Only when the condition is diagnosed can people and their families and carers get the support they need to help them. As well as when they normally see their general practitioner, the five-yearly NHS health check will be also used as an opportunity to identify risk factors for dementia such as hypertension, alcohol and obesity. Over 65 year olds will also be made aware of memory services and those at risk will be referred on.

We are also making sure that the NHS has the right incentives to identify signs of dementia when people are in hospital. From April 2012, £54 million will be made available through the dementia commissioning for quality and innovation to NHS hospitals in England for those who assess over 75 year olds admitted to hospital to check for signs of dementia. From April 2013, we will build on that incentive so that hospitals are rewarded for demonstrating good quality care for people with dementia.

The Government will also take further steps on research. The United Kingdom is world renowned for dementia research, but we still do not know enough about this devastating condition and the level of public participation in dementia research trials remains low. The funding for research into dementia and neurodegenerative disease will double to over £66 million by 2014-15 (compared to 2009-10). The Medical Research Council will be making major funding available for BioBank with a view to scanning the brains of 50,000 to 100,000 participants. This will build a world-leading resource for research into dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. We also want to see more people with dementia taking part in research. Inviting patients to participate in research will become part of a quality marker for memory clinics.

Finally, the challenge of dementia is not one for Government alone, but for all society. We want to develop awareness and understanding, and tackle stigma, so that all parts of society can contribute. The Government will continue to fund awareness campaigns for dementia and by 2015 the aim is to have at least 20 cities, towns and villages working together as dementia-friendly communities, where local businesses, organisations and individuals come together to support people to live well with dementia, helping them remain independent for longer.

Three champion groups will be convened to bring together the leading organisations and groups with an interest in dementia to support the delivery of the Prime Minister’s challenge. The champion groups will report on progress to Department of Health Ministers who will report to the Prime Minister in September 2012.

“The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia” has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

I will update the House on progress in due course.