Conceptual illustration of neuron cells with glowing link knots in abstract dark space, high resolution 3D illustration 3d render 3d illustration

A recent poll shows UK adults believe dementia is in the top three health areas the NHS should focus on in the next 10 years. The survey commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK shows starkly different public priorities to those outlined today in an interview with NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens, which failed to acknowledge the harm dementia presents to the UK’s economy, health services, and lives of people living with condition and carers.

The survey asked people to consider how they would like resources, innovation and funding to be prioritised in the next 10 years. The top disease areas identified in an open-ended question were dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer and mental health.

In an interview, Mr Stevens outlined five health areas that will make up the priorities for the NHS in the next 10 years including, stroke, heart disease, and mental health – all health issues that typically appear alongside dementia.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, is calling on the government and NHS England to make dementia a major priority in the forthcoming 10-year plan. This includes fostering innovation through increased funding for dementia research, working to detect the diseases that cause dementia 10-15 years sooner, increasing awareness of dementia risk reduction, and preparing today for future dementia treatments so they can reach people without unnecessary delay.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Dementia is the leading cause of the death in the UK and is expected to impact more and more people each year. Dementia must be given due resource and attention, not in 10 years’ time but now if we are to improve the lives of people with dementia. To dismiss dementia by failing to include it as a major national health priority is to dismiss the incredible personal and societal cost of this condition. 

“Today there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, but this number is expected to reach one million in just three years. Dementia is expected to cost the UK economy £30bn each year by 2021. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to address the challenges presented by dementia or our health system will not be able to cope.”

The survey also showed one in four UK adults say they believe dementia is the biggest health challenge facing the NHS in the next 70 years in terms of the cost to the NHS and the number of people affected in each of eight disease areas, including cancer, heart disease and mental health conditions. A quarter of adults selected dementia, the highest percentage for any disease area.