Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed a World Dementia Envoy to help speed up research into the condition, the Department of Health has announced. Dr Dennis Gillings will create a World Dementia Council intended to stimulate collaborative innovation and development in dementia research as well as raise funds for research into new treatments.
Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt first announced the position of the World Dementia Envoy at the G8 Dementia Summit in December 2013.
Dr Gillings is a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry and founder of Quintiles, the largest provider of biopharmaceutical development and commercial outsourcing services.
Chief executive of Alzheimer's Research UK Rebecca Wood, said:
'We welcome the appointment of Dr Gillings as the World Dementia Envoy and the energy and coordination this should bring to international dementia research. Some of the most significant advancements in dementia science in recent times, including progress in genetic understanding, have come as a result of international collaboration. International efforts to develop new treatments that act on the disease processes that cause dementia must be an imperative, as current drugs only paper over the cracks for a short period - people with dementia need better.'
Mr Hunt has also pledged that two-thirds of people with dementia will be diagnosed by March next year and this will be helped by a £90 million investment by NHS England. Mr Hunt has challenged the NHS to bring down the average wait from GP referral for an assessment for dementia to six weeks in every area of England. Three-quarters of memory services offer people an assessment within an average of six weeks but in some areas the wait can be up to 25 weeks.
Mr Hunt said: 'To have variation in diagnosis rates from a few weeks to close to six months is totally unacceptable and I am pleased that NHS England have agreed to address this within the funding they have available'.
Ms Wood said that the pledge to speed up diagnosis of the diseases that cause dementia was also welcome.
'People who are worried about their memory or other cognitive problems need to know what is behind these symptoms, and to have dementia ruled in or out. Swifter diagnosis will ensure people have earlier access to support and advice, as well as therapies and treatments that might be available.'
As part of the Prime Minister's Challenge, the DH has set out its ambition for people with dementia and their carers to have timely assessment, dementia advisors, a tailored care plan, support to remain as independent as possible, and coordinated care towards the end of life.