Thank you to all those who contacted me about dementia research and treatments.
Dementia is one of the biggest health and care challenges of our time. The needs of people with dementia must move to the top of the agenda. We must prioritise research, because ultimately our goal must be to prevent, treat and cure this heart-breaking condition.
Breakthroughs in research – such as the drugs lecanemab and donanemab – offer hope for delaying symptom progression and slowing the loss of quality of life. While research continues into their potential clinical benefits, these drugs have assured scientists they are on the right track to a first generation of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) described this as a historic moment for dementia research. But it has expressed concerns over the ability of our health service to deliver any treatments that could be approved for clinical use, particularly as the drugs appear to work in only the earliest stages of the disease, and so early diagnosis is essential.
The Government announced a dedicated dementia strategy last year. Yet after repeated delays and promises of updates “in due course”, the 10-year plan for dementia has been dropped. The Health Secretary has instead announced further consultation on a separate strategy, with dementia featuring as one of six major conditions.
Dementia does not wait for endless consultation. 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, between public and private sectors. It is imperative the Government keeps its pledge to double research funding into dementia by 2024.
As ARUK highlights, transforming dementia diagnosis and care is equally important to ensure patients can access the first effective Alzheimer’s drugs as soon as they become available.
Despite repeated promises to fix social care, the Chancellor has delayed reforms for two years and is instead asking councils to increase taxes on working people to plug funding gaps. The Government’s decision to halve the funding promised to help plug staff shortages has been criticised by adult social care directors.
People with dementia deserve better. I support a long-term plan for reform of adult social care that will eventually lead to a world-class National Care Service that makes people as proud as the NHS does: transforming access and making sure everyone with dementia who needs care and support can get it when and where they need it. This must start with improving standards in the current system as well as delivering better pay, terms and conditions for care workers.