Britain is facing a ‘dementia timebomb’ as the number of people living with devastating brain disease rises almost 40 per cent in five years
- There were 526,800 people diagnosed last year, up from 380,350 in April 2014
- Lib Dem MP Layla Moran warned urgent changes were needed to social care
- The Alzheimer’s Society charity said Britain was ‘completely unprepared’
Britain is facing a ‘dementia timebomb’ as official figures reveal the number of people living with the devastating brain disease has jumped by almost 40 per cent in just five years.
The statistics, compiled by the Liberal Democrats from local NHS data, show that in April 2014 there were 380,350 people across the country diagnosed with dementia. By March last year, that number had rocketed to 526,800 – a rise of 39 per cent.
Last night Lib Dem MP Layla Moran warned that urgent changes were needed to the way social care was organised and funded or else the country would be unable to cope with even larger numbers of people with dementia in the future. The Alzheimer’s Society charity said Britain was ‘completely unprepared’.
The number of people living with dementia has jumped nearly 40 per cent in five years. Pictured: A nurse comforts a senior man (stock)
Ms Moran said: ‘This is one of the biggest social and healthcare challenges we face. We face a dementia timebomb and these figures show it starkly.’
The MP said that social-care budgets, the NHS and the families of people with dementia ‘will increasingly be strained as the number affected increases’.
She added: ‘We need a sustainable long-term plan for social care and we need to get away from a system teetering on the edge of collapse that we currently have.’
Critics say the current system, in which NHS care is free while many aspects of social care are charged for, discriminates against people with dementia because those patients often need round-the-clock care to help them live, but not hospital treatment.
Critics argue it means that while people with cancer or heart disease have a good chance of passing on their wealth to their children, those with dementia end up having to sell their homes to fund years of very expensive care.
The rise in the number of cases is due in part to the country’s ageing population. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of over-60s in the UK grew from 14.9 million to 16.2 million.
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran warned that urgent changes were needed to the way social care was organised and funded or else the country would be unable to cope with even larger numbers of people with dementia in the future
Doctors are also now more likely to spot signs of dementia and diagnose it. Fiona Carragher, chief policy and research officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘By 2040, 1.6 million people in the UK are likely to be living with dementia.
‘Many will rely on social care. Currently, at least 70 per cent of care-home residents and 60 per cent of home-care users have some form of dementia. With a growing diagnosis rate, social-care demand will also increase.
‘But the UK is already in a social-care crisis and is completely unprepared for these kinds of numbers.
‘People with dementia have been worst hit by the pandemic, accounting for a quarter of all Covid-19 deaths in the UK. The pandemic has also exposed the grim realities of our underfunded and over-stretched social-care system.’
The Health Department said an increase in diagnoses was to be welcomed as it meant doctors were getting better at spotting the illness.
A spokesman added that the Government had also committed to spending an extra £83 million a year on dementia research over the next decade.