Dame Judi Dench urges Government to fulfil dementia research pledge

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Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Brian Cox and Dame Harriet Walter have called on the Government to fulfil its election promise to double investment in dementia research.

During the last election, the Conservatives pledged to increase public investment to £160 million in what the party described as the “largest boost to dementia research ever” in the UK.

Alzheimer’s Research UK claims that a year on, there has been no further commitment or strategy outlined and no mention of it in last week’s Spending Review.

The charity, supported by a host of celebrities, has now launched a petition to demand extra funding to “protect the future of dementia research” during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are almost one million people in the UK living with dementia, according to the charity.

Oscar winner Dame Judi said: “Having portrayed someone with Alzheimer’s in the film Iris and having seen the impact of dementia on people around me, I’m sadly all too aware of how painful, cruel and unforgiving this condition can be.

“Not only on the person affected, but their friends and family too, as dementia can turn the relationships we hold most dearly upside down. It is heart-breaking and we must take action.”

Succession star Cox said: “I was forced to witness dementia take hold of both my brother-in-law and my own brother, while knowing nothing could be done to stop it.

“I don’t want other families to go through this heartbreak, so I’m passionate about doing all I can to help the search for life-changing treatments.

“But this is a gigantic challenge, and one we cannot conquer alone.

“The UK Government has a huge role to play in advancing our research efforts in this critical area and the funding committed a year ago would help ensure we make that progress.

“But a year has passed and we are still waiting to see this investment come to light.

Brian Cox comments
Brian Cox said the search for dementia treatments must be speeded up (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The Government’s pledge was critical for people affected by dementia, but the failure to include dementia research in its latest spending plans is a devastating blow for all those waiting on life-changing treatments.

“This week’s (coronavirus) vaccine news proves just what can be achieved for major health conditions, with the right investment in research.

“Unless the Government urgently delivers on its promise to double its funding for dementia research, we are at risk of undoing all the progress we’ve made, and this is unacceptable.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want to make this the best country in the world to live with dementia and we have committed to significantly increasing research funding, over a number of years to help improve detection and care for people living with dementia.

“We are working across government and with the sector to deliver on the commitment and encouraging new researchers into the area.”

The petition is available at: alzres.uk/sign-our-petition.

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