Page last updated at 23:07 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 00:07 UK

Dementia burden 'could break NHS'

Elderly woman
About 700,000 in the UK have dementia

The predicted rise in dementia over the next two decades could destroy the NHS, say top scientists in an open letter.

An ageing population means the burden of dementia on the UK will double to 35bn-a-year within 20 years.

They told Health Secretary Alan Johnson that more should be spent researching new treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

The 11 specialists claimed only 3% of the annual NHS research budget was aimed at dementia. But the government said it was looking to improve care.

As the NHS turns 60, the question isn't whether it will last a further 60 years, but if it can survive the next 20
Open letter to Health Secretary Alan Johnson

The open letter to Mr Johnson says that the NHS "may well be unsustainable" as the number of people with dementia increases.

They wrote: "As the NHS turns 60, the question isn't whether it will last a further 60 years, but if it can survive the next 20.

"The government must greatly increase dementia research now."

The signatories included Professor Simon Lovestone, from King's College London, Professor Nick Fox, from University College London, and Professor John Mayer, from Nottingham University.

National strategy

Rebecca Wood, the chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said that a quarter of the Department of Health's 700m research and development money was spent on cancer research, more than six times the figure received by dementia researchers.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

"If underinvestment persists, the economic consequences arising from dementia care costs will be catastrophic."

A spokesman for the King's Fund, whose recent report predicted the doubling of costs for dementia care, said: "There is no cure for dementia.

"Unless there is a major breakthrough in drugs to arrest the course of this illness, there will be a great need for extra care and support, some of it quite intense."

But a Department of Health spokesman said that the first ever "National Dementia Strategy", which the government is currently working on, would improve early diagnosis, treatment and care.

She said that "significant funding" had already been made in dementia research, with the department investing 20m over five years from 2006 in a national research network on dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
'I just want to protect him'
14 May 08 |  Health
Dementia 'must be key priority'
24 Jan 08 |  Health
Call for improved dementia care
03 Jul 07 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific