As the dust from 2017 begins to settle (and all those mince pies settle firmly on our midsections), the new year is already moving full steam ahead.
2018 promises to be just as busy as last year, and likely with as many changes in the political scene, some directly affecting dementia research. Amid these, Alzheimer’s Research UK will be pushing for the Government to give priority to bringing an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.
Here are the key issues we’re watching in 2018:
- Challenge on Dementia 2020
This government Challenge was first launched in 2012, and renewed in 2015, by the then Prime Minister David Cameron. The initiative will end in 2020, unless it’s renewed this spring when it comes under review. Continuing this programme, which provides a blueprint for government to continue to invest in dementia research, is vital for maintaining the progress we have made in the three short years since the latest initiative started.
The next stage of negotiations in the Brexit process will present another round of challenges we will need to overcome protect dementia research in the UK. These negotiations will have an impact on everything from the life sciences sector as a whole to medical research charities specifically, research funding, the mobility of skilled workers, and sharing patient and research data.
- Access to treatments
There are two areas that will impact how future treatments are made available to people with dementia. We need to better understand the potential cost of new treatments, particularly in the face of NICE’s budget impact testannounced last spring. We also need to better understand how the NHS’ proposed Accelerated Access Pathway will give ‘breakthrough’ designation to treatments. We believe that charities and researchers need to be consulted on both issues.
- Industrial Strategy and the Ageing Society Grand Challenge
The government named the UK’s ageing society as one of the ‘Grand Challenges’ to be tackled through its recently-launched Industrial Strategy. We want to ensure that dementia is given priority within this Challenge and would like to see more details about what this Challenge looks like in practice. Its focus on early diagnosis of diseases will be particularly important, as this is an area where we require much improvement in dementia – a lack of reliable and accurate diagnostic tools means that currently the condition is often diagnosed far too late. Another important element will be increased collaborations between universities and industry as government looks for ways to make research more profitable for the UK.
- Data sharing
This spring we expect to hear more from the NHS about the value of people sharing their NHS data for research, and people will also be given new ways to opt out of sharing data if they aren’t comfortable doing so. While many people may have questions about sharing data, when used in a safe and ethical way, this data is crucial to research to find cures for diseases like those that cause dementia.
We’re asking the government to remember dementia by making it a priority in these areas, and by increasing the annual investment in dementia research to a minimum of £132m by 2022.
But we can’t do it alone! We hope you’ll help us fight dementia by signing up for our monthly Campaigners email (or a quarterly mailing if you prefer). From time to time we may ask you to reach out to your MP, but we’ll send you all the details to make it easy.
We know that research is the only way to defeat dementia, and together we can work to give research the support and priority it needs in 2018. Happy New Year!