Britain will become “the best country in the world to grow old in”, Jeremy Hunt has said, as he announces plans to pour money into dementia research and ensure sufferers are diagnosed within six weeks.
Writing for The Telegraph, the Health Secretary says that the fight against dementia is a “litmus test” of how the Government is responding to Britain’s ageing population.
In a highly personal intervention, Mr Hunt talks about the fear he had that his father had dementia before his death from cancer.
There are approximately 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK with the number expected to hit a million within the next 10 years.
The Government is on Saturday announcing that in future, people exhibiting signs of dementia should be seen by a medical expert within six weeks.
It will also invest over £300 million into UK research into the disease in an attempt to find a cure for dementia by 2025.
Around 1.3 million NHS staff will in future be required to undergo training in dementia so that they now how to give pensioners exhibiting signs of the disease the best-possible care.
“Doing things better on dementia is a litmus test of something else too: our response to the challenge of an ageing population, and how we provide security in retirement,” Mr Hunt writes.
“Life expectancy is going up by around two years for every ten that we live. If you do the maths, that means that for every 24 hours that we live, our life expectancy is going up by five hours. That is the challenge for our generation – what exactly is going to happen with those extra hours, days and months? Are they going to be a bonus, something to look forward to at the end of a life well lived? Or are they going to be a period we think about with dread and fear?
“How we tackle the challenge of dementia will be key to answering that question…But there is much to do if we really are to build a Britain that is the best country in the world to grow old in.”
Announcing the new measures, David Cameron said that an international dementia institute will be established in England over the next five years in a bid to make the UK a world leader for research and medical trials.
A separate multimillion-pound fund will be launched within weeks to help establish a large-scale, international investment scheme to discover new drugs and treatment that could slow down the onset of dementia or even deliver a cure by 2025, Mr Cameron said.
Meanwhile there are plans to give three million more “dementia friends” training in how to give those around them with the condition support.
Mr Cameron said that dementia is “one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime”.
He added: “Because of the growing strength of our economy, we can invest in research and drug-development, as well as public understanding, so we defeat this terrible condition and offer more hope and dignity for those who suffer.