Thank you to all those who contacted me about the Government’s commitment to publish a 10-year plan for dementia, which was first announced in May 2022.
I share your concern that progress has stalled. Ministers have not set out further details other than to say they are “reviewing plans for dementia in England”, with more information available in “due course”. But dementia does not wait. I am pleased the Opposition is pressing Government Ministers to set out a timetable for the publication and delivery of its new strategy.
The needs of people with dementia must move to the top of the agenda. That starts with research, because ultimately our goal must be to prevent, treat and cure this heart-breaking condition.
Breakthroughs in research – such as the drug lecanemab – offer hope for delaying symptom progression and slowing the loss of quality of life. Yet Government spending on dementia research has fallen in recent years. This is alongside Ministers’ decision to delay £2 billion in annual spending on research and development. It is imperative they keep their pledge to double research funding into dementia by 2024, as well as the commitment to establish a dementia medicines taskforce to boost clinical trials.
We should be backing Britain’s world-leading scientists to confront dementia. That is why the Opposition has committed to not only protect but enhance the UK science base and achieve 3% of GDP spent on science and research across the economy.
Transforming dementia diagnosis and care is equally important. For too long, social care has lacked the priority it needs. Cuts to local government have resulted in £8 billion being lost from adult social care budgets, too many people going without the support they need, and thousands of families paying 100% of their care costs. Workforce pressures are also mounting, with social care providers reporting 165,000 vacancies across the sector.
After repeated promises to fix social care, the Chancellor has delayed reforms for two years.
The Opposition has made improving care one of four missions of its Industrial Strategy: the first step towards a National Care Service. But this must start with improving standards in the current system as well as delivering better pay, terms and conditions for care workers. I support a 10-year plan of investment and reform to put social care on an equal footing with the NHS, improve access, and ensure all people living with dementia get the right support when and where they need it.