A researcher working in the lab

'Dementia research must not be an afterthought': Why the Government must support medical research charities

There has been much speculation about the true impact of the coronavirus pandemic on medical research. We take a look at the knock-on effect this will have on people affected by dementia and why research must not be an afterthought as we move forward.

Coronavirus and the lockdown have affected almost every aspect of life.

As a direct result, Alzheimer’s Society is anticipating a loss of income, up to £45 million this financial year. This has meant the charity has had to pause our research funding programme during this period.

This month, over 70% of our funded researchers told us they had been forced to stop all or some of their research programme, with nearly 80% expecting delays.

Over 90% told us they were worried about the future of dementia research, raising concerns of future funding opportunities, additional challenges to implementing research and recruiting to clinical studies. 

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Dementia is already chronically underfunded 

Latest figures suggest dementia costs the UK economy, in total, £37.4bn and this cost will rise to £94.1bn by 2040. 

We have seen dementia research funding grow in recent years and momentum building to bring change, with initiatives such at the UK Dementia Research Institute

Despite this positive trend, however, dementia research has been chronically underfunded. Latest figures show the UK Government invests around £85m in dementia research per year, which reflects about 0.25 per cent of the cost of dementia to the UK. A mere drop in an ever-growing ocean.

Add a global pandemic to the mix, which has exacerbated the challenges people affected by dementia already face, a broken social care system and an almost neglectful attitude of the Government, and there is a real, and not unjustified, fear that the glimmer of hope provided by research will fade.

The impact of coronavirus

During the pandemic, a scene of devastation has swept through care homes in the UK where over 70% of residents live with dementia. At the same time, carers and those living at home with dementia have felt the effects of social isolation keenly.

From 1 March to 30 May 46,687 people died of COVID-19 in England and Wales. 27.5% of these deaths were people with dementia – 12,856 people.

It is time the government prioritises people affected by dementia today, and thousands more who will develop the condition. Real action is needed to change the course of what currently seems an inevitable future.

Put simply, research is the only way to beat dementia and it must not be an afterthought as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Support through research

As the UK’s biggest charitable funder of dementia care research, we have seen first-hand the value of health and social care research. Alongside biomedical research that inches us towards new treatments, care research brings change to people affected by dementia today. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, our care researchers are on the frontline working with people affected by dementia to understand the true impact of the pandemic on their physical and mental health and developing dementia-specific solutions and guidance.

In the fight against COVID-19, our care researchers lead the charge for people affected by dementia.

What are we calling for? 

The Association of Medical Research Charities (of which Alzheimer’s Society is a member) showed this week, that medical research charities, on average, will see a 41% decrease in their medical research spend over the next year. As medical research charities support 51% of publicly funded research in the UK, this is a huge blow. 

The AMRC reports a £310m shortfall in charitable medical research spending and Alzheimer’s Society whole-heartedly supports the call to the government to step up and bridge this gap that could leave many, including people affected by dementia, with a much fainter glimmer of hope.

Join our campaign

Whether in times of hardship, such as the coronavirus pandemic, or fighting to ensure that dementia is treated like any other illness, we are standing with people affected by dementia. Will you stand with us?

Join our campaign today
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