Dementia: Another Strategy Bites The Dust… But It Doesn’t Need To…

Dementia: Another Strategy Bites The Dust… But It Doesn’t Need To…

Roudie Shafie, Partner at OVID Health, shares her thoughts on the Government’s new 10-Year Dementia Plan:

Dementia is one of the most significant healthcare challenges of our time. Almost everyone I know has been touched by the heartbreak and agony of this condition – from a friend who buried a father barely out of his 50s to the 100-year-old grandmother we said goodbye to after an agonising slow neurodegeneration. In my 10 years working to boost investment and collaboration in dementia research, I heard so many of these stories. But research takes time, the amazing pace and scale of the COVID-19 vaccine development and roll out is simply not comparable to the marathon we are running to cure dementia. Which is why at OVID Health, we continue to work with partners in dementia, most recently supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK in securing Government action through a Dementia Medicines Taskforce endorsed by Dame Kate Bingham.

By 2025, 1 million people in the UK are expected to have dementia, a figure predicted to rise to 1.6 million by 2040. With this in mind, the Government has endeavoured to be a world leader in dementia, from the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge and chairmanship of the G8 in 2013, to the investment in dementia research with the establishment of a world leading Dementia Research Institute. This week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid launched a new 10-Year Plan for dementia. The strategy rightly talks not only of the research challenge but also the care crisis that so many people with dementia and families face. But is it enough?

The short answer is no. Dementia does not exist in a vacuum – the NHS backlog, the social care crisis, the cost of living crisis and frankly even Brexit are all impeding the scale of progress. The ambitions on diagnosis is a perfect example of where investment in science is yielding great advances in biomarkers, but without a healthcare system which enables trained GPs to see patients in a timely manner and a treatment pathway for patients to be referred to, the real life impact will be felt by too few many. We need to start the policy conversation about how the health system can change and adapt to find and treat patients not just now, but also in the future.

And so, as this 10-Year Plan joins the 10-Year Cancer Plan on the desks of the civil servants and the NHSE officials asked to implement it, I wonder how many have looked across both and asked the bigger questions? Is the NHS ready for the result of years of research and development in these disease areas? Neither strategy delves into the promise and excitement that cell and gene therapies are bringing to treating cancer and neurodegeneration. They fail to say what the Government and the NHS will do  to build and change imminently to make sure patients throughout the UK benefit when these innovative treatments arrive. So, we are left with another 10-year strategy not delivering the health system we need now and in the future.

If you’d like to know more about OVID’s work in dementia, email [email protected]