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UK adults differ from NHS England boss on health priorities

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 recently by NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens.


The five priorities for the next 10 years named by the NHS England boss have been widely reported as mental health (specifically targeted at children and young people), cancer, cardiovascular disease, children's services and health inequalities.


Alzheimer's Research UK says this approach fails to acknowledge the harm dementia presents to the UK’s economy, health services, and lives of people living with the condition as well as their carers. Furthermore, three of these priorities - stroke, heart disease and mental health - are health issues that typically appear alongside dementia.


The survey commissioned by Alzheimer's Research UK asked people to consider how they would like resources, innovation and funding for healthcare 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.


Alzheimer’s Research UK 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, says: “Dementia is the leading cause of 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.