Dementia directly afflicts 820,000 persons in the UK. The public health service will struggle to cope if the prevalence of dementia continues to rise.
A major new Alzheimer's Research Trust commissioned University of Oxford report, Dementia 2010
, reveals that the impact of dementia on the UK's society and economy is higher than ever. It also shows that dementia research remains severely under-funded compared to other conditions like cancer and heart disease.
In 2009, the Alzheimer's Research Trust asked the Health Economics Research Centre at the University of Oxford to produce a report on the economic cost of dementia to the UK, and the country's investment in research to find new treatments, preventions and cures. They were to calculate the care costs of dementia to health services, social services, unpaid carers and others, and compare this to the other great medical challenges of our age: cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Prof Alastair Gray, Dr Ramon Luengo-Fernandez and Dr Jose Leal worked on the Dementia 2010 report.
The Oxford team's findings said - Every one of the 821,884 people in the UK with dementia costs our economy £27,647 per year; that's more than the UK median salary. By contrast, patients with cancer cost £5,999, stroke £4,770 and heart disease £3,455 per year. Despite this, government and charitable spending on dementia research is 12 times lower than on cancer research. £590 million is spent on cancer research each year, while just £50 million is invested in dementia research.
"The true impact of dementia has been ignored for too long. The UK's dementia crisis is worse than we feared. This report shows that dementia is the greatest medical challenge of the 21st century. This should be a wake-up call for all of us who can influence the priority given to dementia research, government, charities and the public as a whole," said Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Research Trust.
"If we spend a more proportionate sum on dementia research, we could unleash the full potential of our scientists in their race for a cure. Spending millions now really can save us crippling multi-billion pound care bills later," Ms. Wood stressed. With enough support, the scientists can defeat dementia and halt this tidal wave of suffering, she added.
Paul Butstow, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, who played a key role in launching the report, said, "The Government's dementia strategy offers the prospect of a better model of care. But it offers no answer to the inexorable rise in the demand for care. The answer must surely be human ingenuity and discovery. More funds are needed to enable scientists to research and understand dementia, to research and develop new treatments."