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Scientists challenge government over dementia underfunding

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A group of the UK’s leading scientists have signed an open letter calling on the government to use today’s ministerial summit on dementia research to end ‘years of underfunding’.

They want to see a three-fold increase in investment into research to find new treatments, preventions and cures for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The campaign, lead by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, is supported by the Alzheimer’s Society and the Parkinson’s Disease Society.

The letter warns that the UK’s ‘key weakness is lack of funding, not lack of talent’.

The letter said: ‘For every pound spent on dementia care, a fraction of a penny is spent on research into defeating the condition.
‘Our key weakness is lack of funding, not lack of talent. The Government must use this summit to initiate a national dementia research strategy. Most importantly, it must commit to tripling its annual support for dementia research to £96m within five years.
‘If the government squanders this opportunity, we will all pay the price.’

Professor Julie Williams, the letter’s lead-author and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: ‘Week after week British dementia scientists come a step closer to understanding what causes dementia, and how this might be translated into new treatments…upping our investment in dementia research would be prudent. If we can work out how to delay the onset of dementia by five years, we could halve the number of people who die with the condition.’

Ahead of today’s summit care services minister Phil Hope said:

‘One million people will develop dementia in the next ten years. Our National Dementia Strategy will help people live well with dementia by improving diagnosis, care and support, but research is the key to developing new treatments, transforming care and ultimately finding a cure for this devastating condition.

‘Today is a vital step towards a more co-ordinated approach to dementia research. The Government is already investing strongly in research and we have some of the best researchers in the world. By 2011, the total National Institute for Health Research budget for all health science will be nearly £1bn.  We now need to increase the number of successful dementia research proposals to access to this investment.’

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