Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Friday, 11 January 2013

Former health minister calls for more money for dementia

The government needs to spend more money finding better treatments and a possible cure for dementia, according to a former health minister.

Paul Burstow, who lost his job as care minister in last September's reshuffle, opened a general debate on dementia on 10 January 2013.

Mr Burstow told MPs research into the disease was lagging behind other areas, claiming there was a "poverty of ambition" in government when it came to tackling dementia.

He said: "I have to say that in my time as minister I found myself increasingly frustrated - frustrated by what I saw as a poverty of ambition when measured against the burden of disease that dementia represents.

"I think we still have lessons to learn from the journey that the cancer movement in research has gone through. We need a long-term plan for dementia research and a sustained increase in funding for at least the next decade."

There were a number of emotional speeches from backbench MPs who had had personal experience of the illness.

Labour's Debbie Abrahams told the Commons about her mother, who died as a result of Alzheimer's last year at the age of 74.

She told MPs: "I'll remember until the day I die the first time she didn't recognise me, which was about four years after she was diagnosed.

"She went from being a brilliant, vivacious, caring woman, a woman who invented the term social justice before it entered the lexicon, to a woman who gradually lost her ability to communicate, feed or toilet herself."

Labour former minister Hazel Blears said she was also worried that there was not enough research into dementia and Alzheimer's.

Ms Blears said: "What everybody wants, who has Alzheimer's, is that they want a cure. They are absolutely desperate to get some progress here. I feel that if we had a really big push on research then we could get some progress.

"Our scientists are some of the best in the world in this area and yet for every six scientists working on cancer, there is only one working on dementia."

Conservative MP Tracey Crouch used her speech to call on the government to "recalibrated its priorities" and called on ministers to consider spending the "extra billions of pounds earmarked for aid projects abroad on funding quality care for the elderly at home".

Responding to the debate, minister for care and support Norman Lamb said dementia was one of the most important and pressing health and social care issues faced as a society.

The coalition he said was "doing as much as possible, but there is still so much more to be done".

He added: "We will make an announcement soon on funding for elderly care, the Care and Support Bill in my view must include clauses on Dilnot. I think there's a real opportunity now to secure the reform that is so long overdue."

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