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Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

The National Institute for Health Research supports a wide range of research, including a number of studies of pre-senile dementias, more commonly known as early-onset dementias. This includes 85 studies recruiting patients with dementia and a further 17 in the set-up phase.

I declare an interest.

Dementia in the ageing population is beginning to be better understood and recognised—I appreciate the Government’s efforts on this—but there are also the frontotemporal dementias, such as Pick’s, corticobasal degeneration, Lewy body, progressive supranuclear palsy, Parkinson’s and stroke-related dementias, which are early onset. There is less understanding and awareness of these dementias. I welcome the Government’s commitment to research in this area, but we also need to extend understanding among nurses, general practitioners and care providers. Will the Government ensure that this wider understanding is available and extended?

I thank the hon. Lady for her interest in early-onset dementia. She is absolutely right: there is a widespread lack of understanding of dementia in general, and of early-onset dementia in particular. In addition to the research that I mentioned in my earlier answer, we are also looking at a major programme to engage GPs. Sadly, some GPs still think that it is not worth diagnosing someone with dementia, and there is a lack of understanding that we absolutely have to put right.

Government and charitable spending on dementia research is 12 times lower than spending on cancer research, with £590 million a year being spent on cancer research and only £50 million being invested in dementia research. What steps can we all, including the Government, take to increase the amount of investment in dementia research?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and he will be pleased to learn that the Government are more than doubling the amount of money that we put into dementia research. We need to catalyse the private sector companies because although they know that the size of their potential market of people with dementia is huge, they have been frustrated in their attempts to find the breakthrough medicine that we urgently need. We need to use the research to excite their interest and keep them focused on this truly tragic disease.

8. What steps his Department plans to take to improve dementia diagnosis rates and to reduce regional variations in such diagnoses. (144343)

There are unacceptable variations in the level of dementia diagnosis across the country, and we are committed to driving significant improvements. We have asked local areas, through the NHS mandate, to make measurable progress in improving dementia diagnosis over the next two years.

In North Yorkshire and York, only 43% of those suffering from dementia receive a diagnosis. Given the ageing population in the county, that means that about 7,000 people with dementia remain undiagnosed. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the clinical commissioning groups have a large role to play in the delivery of dementia services, and will he tell us what support those groups will get?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is a tragedy for those 7,000 people and their families that they are not getting a diagnosis. With a diagnosis, medicines and drugs could have a big impact and stave off the condition for between one in three and one in four people, and support services could also be put in place for carers. We need a massive transformation, and we need to make it much easier for people to get a diagnosis. We need much better understanding among GPs, as I mentioned earlier, and among hospitals as well, given that 25% of all in-patients have dementia.