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Dementia crisis looming, warns Hunt

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that Britain is facing a crisis if more is not done to combat dementia.

Visiting pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s UK dementia research centre, Mr Hunt met scientists and researchers working to prevent and treat the disease.

Mr Hunt’s comments came as he announced the government is to invest £22m in 21 pioneering dementia research projects.

The funding was awarded by the National Institute of Health Research and is designed to cover all areas of scientific activity relevant to dementia, across the fields of care, cure and cause, including prevention.

Mr Hunt said many pharmaceutical companies may avoid dementia research due to the huge complexities of studying the human brain, but warned that this was not an issue to be ignored.

He said: “With one in three families affected by dementia, this is something which is becoming a crisis.

“Around a million people will have dementia in the next few years. One of the big challenges we have is this big quest to get a cure or a treatment to halt dementia or Alzheimer’s in their tracks.

“We’ve had some setbacks this year, and some high-profile failures. But Lilly as a company has actually had some big successes, and so what I’ve learned today is that it’s not all gloom and doom.

“I think there is a real prospect of a treatment that could could have a significant impact on slowing the spread of Alzheimer’s within the next decade.”

Mr Hunt said the amount invested in dementia research had been doubled due to concerns about the country’s ageing population and the desire to keep Britain at the forefront of medical research.

He said Britain’s ageing population would become the most dominant issue in politics over the next decade.






Readers' comments (42)

  • what do you care hunt you dont give a toss about the nhs

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  • "He said Britain’s ageing population would become the most dominant issue in politics over the next decade."

    Heaven help us we will soon all have labels and the government and medical profession who take over responsibility for our health and our futures.

    It needs more than investment in Big Pharma and their pills to care appropriately for the elderly with dementia.

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  • the only reason it will become a 'political' issue is becasue of the cost of providing quality care.

    Until a wonder pill is discovered we will have to decide whether we want to provide quality care with specialist dementia trained nurses who understand dementia or just provide basic care in elderly people farms.

    Private care homes are mostly providing the latter.

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  • tinkerbell

    the only reason it will become a 'political' issue is becasue of the cost of providing quality care.

    Until a wonder pill is discovered we will have to decide whether we want to provide quality care with specialist dementia trained nurses who understand dementia or just provide basic care in elderly people farms.

    Private care homes are mostly providing the latter.

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  • surely the elderly with dementia are entitled to the same healthcare as anybody else considering everybody, in theory pays income tax to cover it, or are we now choosing who and what conditions we prefer to care for regardless of the fact they are paying for it. some of the elderly who have been fortunate to be in good health all their lives have paid into the nhs system during all of this time and supported others whose usage may be far more frequent or heavy so should they not also be able to derive the benefits of good care as and when they need it no matter their pathology?

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  • healthcare of the future looks promising with dementia testing for everybody over a certain age when they present to the medical services for whatever reason (strange they have time for this in A&E in view of the long delays some patients have to suffer and the funding for it in view of the current financial crisis which blamed for staff shortages and ddropping standards of care), DNA collection, remote GPs and nurses, prophylactic medication even in the absence of any symptom, opting out of organ donation which might be rather difficult for emergency admissions under some circumstances if the patient is not in a state to respond, lack of care for the elderly, poor maternity services, less trained staff, etc. and this seems to be just the start of what the future might look like.

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  • Dementia "testing" ?

    Is it ethical to attempt to determine if someone is "dementing" when there is no effective treatment or cure. Especially if the individual is experiencing no major difficulties in their life.

    Now ---- what day is it ?

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  • Some wonderful responses to "dementia" testing------

    Can you tell me what day is today ----"Yes"

    What day is it then " Have you forgotten?"

    What is this? (patient is shown a wrist watch) ---" I don't know but if you hang it on the wall its a clock"

    What's the Queens name --" Well she is old now and Charles will be the next one. Does she still wear a crown?"

    Where do you live? --- "In a house"

    What time is it ? ---" Time I was going home"

    Is it the patient or the tester who has a problem? !

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  • Anonymous | 28-Dec-2012 4:04 am

    fortunately there are plenty of reminders on this page to tell us what date it is!

    How many times on ward rounds when patients are being questioned to establish their orientation in time and space have we been unable to mentally respond. Even in my distant youth I certainly didn't instantly recall the answers to some of the questions being asked and often did not know the date or even the day until I sat down in the office to write up notes. how often did we have to check with each other what the date was and sometimes even had to look it up in the diary or on a newspaper - I still do this all the time as do many other people.

    as far as ethics are concerned, I think this type of cognitive testing could quickly become highly subjective.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 28-Dec-2012 11:27 am

    I rarely know the date, and often don't know the day either - especially after Bank Holidays.

    My memory was always awful, I am not looking forward to it getting even worse - opinions vary about whether I'm crackers or very clever (I get both - presumably I'm somewhere in between).

    I just hope that competence in typing, never gets used as the test !

    And, yes, they are desperate for a pill, to negate the costs of properly (i.e. decently) caring for people with dementia (I read that Germany has started to export its elderly to The East !).

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  • another drama from a crisis, scripted by politicians but not offering real solutions, only hobson's choices. Yes it will be a problem if we forget to vote, as we get can't remember who really did anything to help, with younger people dying earlier from lifestyle/apathy or boredom and that there'd be fewer people left to tax.
    Not a problem, a wonder pill will be found soon with a privatised national health + social care service only the rich can afford. The rest, after asset stripping, will get packed off to funny farms + recycled into energy for environmental reasons when nobody's looking :P

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  • Too many anonymous comments posted on this issue. Yes, it is a political matter and yes, it is a healthcare crisis but constructive criticism will be the way forward. At the very heart of this are patients who deserve, and need care - a point well worth remembering.

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  • tinkerbell

    in the meantime, until the wonder pill is found we still have a problem.

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  • Dementia crisis looming, warns Hunt

    The dementia crisis is already here.......because nobody listened and nobody did anything about it. This is a problem for society as a whole and it is a real emergency.

    The vast majority of those with dementia are being looked after by unqualified, poorly supported carers. There are no magic pills and there won't be for decades. Keep putting the funding into research, but the resources which are required to support dementia sufferers and the health and well-being of those who care for them, must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

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  • many of the elderly are perfectly autonomous, self-fulfilled individuals who play their role in society. don't assume when all senior citizens walk through the door of some medical facility that they are suffering from dementia and putting them to the test.

    put the money where it is most needed for those who need good quality specialised care for dementia and all other types of healthcare they need. it is out in the field where one can gain experience and identify and meet the needs of those suffering from dementia most adequately. listen to those who work there, recognise and reward them as the valued experts they are, offer them any further resources, tools, further training, supervision and support etc, they may need and improve existing services and design and expand those which will be required in the future.

    In this day and age of modern technology and know how, as well as the financial resources of one of the allegedly wealthiest countries in the world, Britain should be leaders in the field providing state of the art training and care by highly motivated staff.

    Britain appears to have a habbit of bumbling on until they suddenly wake up and find a crisis on their hands and then react too late when they are powerless to to anything remotely adequate about it and cause much needless suffering among its citizens at the same time.

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  • It's all about Buzz words though isn't it? A few years ago the buzz word, fuelled by programmes such as Panorama et al, was drug abuse and millions were pumped into the NHS and others to combat it. I was a deputy manager/manager of a nursing home for a few years before coming back to the NHS and year on year social service funding was cut meaning that standards of care became more and more difficult to maintain, thereby, it could be argued, causing the present care crisis. So back to the present and along comes Panorama et al with their programmes on poor standards of elderly care and the government pour money into it trying to right what they caused, and rightly so.
    The trust I work for were pumping millions into Drug and alcohol two years ago, now it's dementia care My problem is in a couple of years or so when Panorama et al find a new band wagon to jump on and the government of the day jump alongside, dementia care will be forgotten (no pun intended)

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  • Anonymous | 30-Dec-2012 2:24 pm

    good points and the buzz word theory trend seems very true. emotive arguments will always work for a while until they are forgotten in favour of something else. However, large injections of cash thrown at them instead of examining the situation and the fundamental issues seem to do very little other than the equivalent of applying surface cosmetics as long as they are affordable and until the money runs out, and the next 'buzz' comes along to capture everybody's attention.

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  • I will never understand why on one hand we are encouraged to adopt a lifestyle to live longer and on the other hand there is no provision for when we eventually become ill or dependent. However long we live, there is nothing as sure as death, one way or another. We are not all suddenly going to drop dead, after a long healthy life, there will be a pathway of illness leading to death, possibly chronic, in most cases.

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  • tinkerbell

    working through an assessment with a dementia patient today on a medical ward i asked

    'Can you remember the date you were born?'.

    To which she answered 'how can a baby remember the date they were born'.

    Good answer, can't argue with that.

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  • i suspect it's a 'crisis' because of the financial burden involved. the huge individual cost of dementia, the toll on a family, the distress etc is a tragedy (governments get involved in a crisis adn tend to 'comment' on a tragedy).
    they will be preparing the way for some 'brand new' approach to 'funding' long term care whihc will hit us all in the pocket but presented as 'A CRISIS' in the hope it will reduce the outcry????

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