A question of priorities

The government has recently pledged extensive measures to combat dementia and place the UK at the forefront of the global fight against the illness.

Amid reports that the international cost of the condition stands at £370bn – or 1% of the world’s total GDP, this is an important commitment and it is laudable that the coalition government is serious about tackling dementia. The additional £300 million funding for medical research which will take 2015’s total to £66 million, a far higher figure than 2010’s £26.6 million as the UK attempts to market itself as the world’s preeminent centre for dementia research. Another of the government’s proposals that is equally important is the rolling out of plans to make NHS staff of all levels, from surgeons to hospital porters, more aware of how to interact with dementia sufferers and better able to deal with their complex needs. By doing so the government will certainly make receiving NHS care a far more comfortable experience for those who have the condition, for whom the health service can be daunting. It is critical to improve the care experience of sufferers and not only focus on trying to find a cure; an estimated 1 million people will be living with dementia by 2025. It is important that an emphasis on research doesn’t overshadow the quality of care and ability for sufferers to live their day-to-day lives. Furthermore, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham raises a good point when he suggests that more could be done to alleviate the massive financial difficulties that dementia sufferers and their families often have to endure. Under the current regime, thousands have lost support and funding, the strains of which are unimaginable. While grand programmes aimed at treating the causes of dementia will undoubtedly pay dividends in the future and are a noble investment, they fail to help the masses of Britons and their families who are being financially crippled by funding gaps. The government should work harder to ensure that some of the most vulnerable in society are able to keep their heads above the water.

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