Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that more than £300m is going to be spent on research into dementia. The Prime Minister also declared that an international dementia institute is to be established in England over the next five years in an attempt to turn the country into a world leader in medical research. Mr Cameron stated that he believed dementia is “one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime” with awareness of the condition being increased and the announcement of increased money may improve support for those with the condition.
Around 850,000 people are living with dementia within the United Kingdom with the number expected to be around a million in the next ten years, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. There are various different types of the condition although symptoms include challenges to memory, thinking and language. Awareness of the condition has been on the increase and dementia is coming into the public eye through films such as Still Alice (2014) which saw Julianne Moore winning the Leading Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a Linguistics Professor diagnosed with the condition. Equally, whilst announcing the raised funding the government also stated that some 1.3 million National Healthcare Service (NHS) workers are going to receive extra training in how to care for people who have dementia, according to a Government press release.
The creation of a global fund is to aim for investors from both public and private sectors unite to fund various research projects into the condition. The increase in research is seen to be an attempt by the government to boost dementia treatment seeing as just three new drugs making it to the market in the last 15 years for the condition. Due to the need for those with the condition for high levels of care the rise in research funding might lead to breakthroughs with more effective care and treatment. The government has targeted dementia through hosting the first G8 event on the condition in 2013 after announcing measures aimed at improving care in 2012.
The Labour party’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has welcomed the announcement of a dementia initiative by stating that he too believed it might “help us face one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.” Although Mr Burnham believes that more needs to be done for people who have the condition now and highlighted Labour’s promise of “employing an extra 5,000 care workers” if they are successful in the May General Election.
The government has placed momentum behind this dementia initiative in an attempt to increase awareness with the possibility of improved care, treatment and an eventual cure. The United Kingdom already possesses a strong reputation for healthcare with the NHS being regarded as one of the most effective healthcare services in the world. Medical research in the United Kingdom is also benefitted by having four of the top ten universities for medicine in the world. In the 2013/14 annual QS world university rankings the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, UCL (University College London) and Imperial College London were all in the top ten for medicine which highlights the reputation for medical qualifications the UK has. The establishment of a global fund may also look to involve other countries in an attempt to improve medical dementia care throughout the world by spreading research and resources.
In recent years dementia and other mental conditions have seen increased coverage in popular culture which is boosting awareness and treatment. Furthermore, the government’s drive to create this dementia initiative may help support and treat many people who are diagnosed with the condition. The establishment of more international involvement may be important to successful breakthroughs and may be seen as an ambitious attempt to improve the care of dementia patients globally.
How might the medical and social research funding offer more understanding to the condition?