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Doctors to test all pensioners for dementia

Robert Winnett
8 November 2012

One million people, including bank and shop workers, will also be offered basic training under a Dementia Friends scheme so that they can identify the condition and assist those who need extra help.

David Cameron said yesterday that awareness of dementia was shockingly low and that more than a million people would soon be sufferers in this country. There are currently 670,000 people with dementia in England but this is predicted to double in the next 30 years.

[Related: Test for teens that predicts Alzheimer's]

The Prime Minister and Health Secretary will today begin a new strategy to raise awareness of dementia and increase research into the disease.

There will now be a requirement on all health-care professionals to ask all patients aged between 65 and 74 about their memory during a check-up.

Mr Cameron said: “We cannot underestimate the challenge we face in dealing with dementia in our country. There are already nearly 700,000 sufferers in England alone but less than half are diagnosed and general awareness about the condition is shockingly low.

“Through the Dementia Friends project we will, for the first time, make sure a million people know how to spot telltale signs and provide support.

“There is still a long way to go in fighting the disease but together we can improve the lives of millions.”

Over the next three years, members of the public will be invited to training sessions in church halls, work places and other venues on how to recognise dementia and provide support. The Government also plans to educate schoolchildren about the condition.

[Related: 5 signs of Alzheimer's 25 years before memory failure]

Ministers will also today announce a £9.6 million research project that will study 8,000 brain scans to help determine why some people develop dementia while others do not.

A £1million prize fund will also be offered to any NHS organisation which successfully improves diagnosis.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said: “Too many people with dementia feel cut off, lonely and fearful without the support and understanding they need. We need to build a society where people can live well with dementia, enjoying the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.

“Our society must become more understanding and more accessible. People with dementia and their carers should never feel barred from everyday activities like shopping for groceries or spending time with friends.”

Dementia is estimated to cost the British economy about £23 billion a year and Mr Cameron sees it as one of the biggest threats facing the country. He is personally spearheading attempts to improve the diagnosis and treatment of those with dementia and will publish regular progress reports.

There are growing concerns within the Government about the increased costs and challenges for public services associated with the ageing population.

Last week, a government submission to a Lords committee forecast that by 2030 the number of pensioners would have risen 51 per cent, with the proportion over 85 more than doubling. The number of disabled older people was expected to rise by 61 per cent to four million.

Read more on The Telegraph.

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