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Taking a stand in Westminster

Kirsty MaraisClare van LyndenSusan MitchellEmily CookEmma HardwickHelen Davies

Since Alzheimer’s Research UK began its work twenty three years ago there has been increasing interest in dementia as an issue. Now, the message that dementia is caused by brain diseases and isn’t a normal part of aging is more and more in the public sphere. And the topic of dementia is finding the same kind of traction in the political arena too.

Over the past decade, public and government interest in dementia has soared, with the condition increasingly on the minds of decision makers. In 2013 the G8 Dementia Summit saw world leaders set-out an ambition to find a treatment that could slow down or stop dementia in its tracks by the year 2025. Since then Alzheimer’s Research UK has been working to keep dementia high on the political agenda by publishing our manifesto and holding awareness raising events.

This year in the first week of February we held a stand in Westminster’s upper hall to tell MPs about our work and encourage them to lend their support to our cause.

So why were we in Westminster and how can politicians help us?

Lobbying is an integral part of the work charities do to ensure governments make promises and then can be held to account on those promises. This keeps certain important issues from being forgotten when it comes to policy.

Dementia research is often different to research in other disease areas because it is very time consuming and costly. This is because dementia is a slowly progressing condition and people in clinical trials need to be studied over a long period of time. This means in turn, that funding into research needs to be increased.

Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen visited the ARUK stand in Westminster

Cambridgeshire South MP Heidi Allen visited the ARUK stand in Westminster

Although more funding is reaching dementia research year on year, it still massively lags behind that of cancer or heart disease with government funding at £66million each year. Because dementia is caused by brain diseases, with the right funding and support, research can reach the same kind of progress towards a treatment that we’ve seen in other disease areas.

Lately there has been an increased focus on the need for patients to benefit from new treatments quickly. A new drug that has been through clinical trials to ensure it is safe might still take years to reach patients on the NHS because it needs to pass through lots of organisations for approval. New treatments should be rigorously tested to ensure they are safe and cost-effective, but it’s also vital that there aren’t blockages and duplications in the drug development pathway that slow this process. This is particularly important for dementia as there is no cure, so currently a diagnosis is terminal. We are hopeful for the future of dementia research but we need to make sure that when a new treatment is discovered it will be available to people living with the condition as quickly as possible.

The more that politicians understand the problems surrounding dementia research, the more can be done to remove barriers slowing down the journey to a new treatment being publicly available.

The power to defeat dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK has set out its main challenges to politicians in a manifesto, which was at the stand. These include:

  • Increased funding for research
  • Increased research capacity
  • Streamlining global regulation processes for drug development
  • Ensuring treatments get to people with dementia as quickly as possible
  • Improving lives by reducing the stigma of dementia helping people to understand how to reduce their risk.

Manifesto-Infographic

By explaining our work to MPs we hope they can increase public awareness in their constituencies and in parliament. Public and government support is vital to the work of Alzheimer’s Research UK – it will take all of us working together to defeat dementia.

5 Responses to Taking a stand in Westminster

  1. Dinita Shah 24 February 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    I would like to have more information in regard to help as my both parents have Dementia and in terms of appointments and regarding their daily needs and their activities is very difficult to carry out.

  2. Dinita Shah 24 February 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    No comment at the moment

  3. Rebecca Tracy 25 February 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Hi Dinita,

    Thank you for your comment. We have some information and a list of organisations that can help you on our website here: http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/about-dementia/helpful-information/support-for-carers/.

    Our Dementia Research Infoline is available on 0300 111 5 111 between 9.00-5.00pm Monday to Friday if you have general questions about dementia.

    Kind regards,

    Rebecca

  4. Stephanie Trotter, OBE 26 February 2016 at 6:11 pm #

    I am very grateful for the work you do and do applaud your efforts with regard to research to find a cure. However, I don’t seem to see anything much about prevention. As well as diet and exercise in my opinion air quality is also important and this seems to be backed up by the following report https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution I couldn’t find any mention of this report in your newsletter.

    Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution (full report) 4.23 MB
    The report starkly sets out the dangerous impact air pollution is currently having on our nation’s health. Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution which plays a role in many of the major health challenges of our day. It has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia. The health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution have a high cost to people who suffer from illness and premature death, to our health services and to business. In the UK, these costs add up to more than £20 billion every year.

    Happy to be emailed about this.

  5. ARUK Editor
    ARUK Editor 29 February 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    Thank you for your post. We are aware of the RCP London report on air pollution and its reference to the potential impacts on the brain. There is strong evidence that smoking is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, which is why it is included both in public health guidance from Public Health England, and in our risk reduction information. The evidence linking other types of air pollution to dementia is more limited, and as the report highlights, there is a need for more research to be done to look at the impact of air pollution on a person’s risk of dementia.

    Alzheimer’s Research UK is supporting research into prevention and are currently working hard with experts in the research community to identify areas of priority for prevention research. If you would like to read more about dementia risk reduction, or some of the research we are currently funding, you can visit our website http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org.

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