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Dementia strategy in the UK

There are an estimated 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. By 2040, the number of people with the condition is expected to double.

The UK Government has set an objective for England to be a world leader in fighting dementia and has committed to improving diagnosis, care and support, and research.

The Challenge on Dementia 2020, published in February 2015, set out what the UK Government wanted to achieve by 2020 in order for England to be:

  • the best country in the world for dementia care and support and for people with dementia, their carers and families to live
  • the best place in the world to undertake research into dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases

Some of the key objectives of the Challenge were:

  • Equal access to diagnosis for everyone
  • GPs playing a lead role in ensuring coordination and continuity of care for people with dementia
  • Every person diagnosed with dementia having meaningful care following their diagnosis
  • All NHS staff having received training on dementia appropriate to their role.

The Challenge on Dementia 2020 also contained the commitment to spend £300 million on dementia research over the five years to March 2020. This commitment was delivered a year early with £344 million spent on dementia research over the four years to 31 March 2019.[1]

The NHS Long Term Plan, published on 7 January 2019, also commits the NHS in England to continuing to improve the care provided to people with dementia and their carers.

The Conservative Party Manifesto 2019 pledged that finding a cure for dementia would be one of the Government’s biggest collective priorities. This would also include doubling research funding into dementia and speeding up trials for new treatments. This is often referred to as the “Dementia Moonshot”. The Alzheimer’s Society has set out five key priorities for dementia research through the Moonshot investment.

In March 2021, the Government said that there is currently no planned date for publication of a strategy to deliver the dementia moonshot.

However, the Government has said that it aims to bring forward proposals for a new strategy to set out plans for dementia care, support, awareness, and research in England. It is also currently working on ways to significantly boost further research on dementia including medical and care interventions.[2]

Further information is available in the Library briefing on Dementia: policy, services and statistics overview (May 2021).

Adult social care

For Dementia Action Week the Alzheimer’s Society is “calling on the Government to cure the care system now.” It argues:

  • Right now, the broken social care system means that in the UK, nearly 1 million people with dementia and their families are struggling to get the support and care that they need and deserve.
  • Decades of underfunding and neglect have led to a care system that’s difficult to access, costly, inadequate and deeply unfair. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed these problems like never before.
  • Until things change, a dementia diagnosis will continue to claim more than one life, as families facing dementia feel its destructive effects.
  • It doesn’t have to be this way.
  • With the right support people with dementia can live a good quality of life, doing what matters most to them for as long as possible.[3]

Social care funding reform

Reforming the adult social care system has been an issue for successive governments and expected reform proposals have been delayed on a number of occasions.

In his first speech as Prime Minister on 24 July 2019, Boris Johnson stated that the Government would “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.”[4]

Subsequently, the Conservative Party’s 2019 general election manifesto stated that a Conservative Government would seek a cross-party consensus in order to bring forward proposals for reform of how people pay for adult social care. It added that a prerequisite of the proposals will be that “no one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it.”[5]

In January 2020, the Prime Minister stated that the Government would bring forward a plan “this year” and would “get it done within this Parliament.” However, the Government subsequently stated that it would not be possible to meet this timetable in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.[6]

At the Spending Review 2020, published on 25 November 2020, the Government stated that it was “committed to sustainable improvement of the adult social care system and will bring forward proposals next year.”[7] This remains the current position, as most recently reiterated at the Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021. The background briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech stated that “the Government “know there is more work to do so that everyone receives high-quality, joined-up care” and is “committed to improving the adult social care system and will bring forward proposals in 2021.”[8]

Further information on the adult social care system, including issues, proposals for reform and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (including the impact on care home residents with dementia), is available in the following Library Briefings:

Dementia during Covid-19

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that there were 42,341 deaths involving Covid-19 among care home residents between March 2020 and April 2021 – 24.3% of all deaths of care home residents during this period. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was the most common pre-existing condition among care home residents who died from COVID-19.

A separate Library briefing is available on The effect of the covid-19 outbreak on people affected by dementia (November 2020).

[1]      PQ 144985 [on Dementia: Research], 3 February 2021

[2]      PQ 171711 [on Dementia: Research], 25 March 2021

[3]      Alzheimer’s Society, Cure The Care System, last accessed 19 May 2021.

[4]      10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson’s first speech as Prime Minister: 24 July 2019, 24 July 2019.

[5]      Conservative and Unionist Party, Get Brexit Done – Unleash Britain’s Potential, November 2019, p12

[6]      BBC, The Big Interviews: Boris Johnson on BBC Breakfast, (at 16 minutes 25 seconds), 14 January 2020; Coronavirus pandemic could delay reforms to social care, health secretary says, Independent, 2 June 2020.

[7]      HM Treasury, Spending Review 2020, November 2020, para 4.10.

[8]      Prime Minister’s Office, Queen’s Speech 2021: background briefing notes, 11 May 2021.

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