G8 Summit on Dementia — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:57 pm on 17 December 2013.

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Photo of Lord Patel Lord Patel Crossbench 2:57, 17 December 2013

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the outcome of the G8 dementia summit.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, the G8 agreed to work together to tackle and defeat dementia. The declaration announced the G8’s ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy by 2025 and to increase collectively and significantly the amount of funding for dementia research. The G8 also welcomed the UK’s decision to appoint a dementia innovation envoy who will work to attract new sources of finance, including examining the potential for a private and philanthropic fund.

Photo of Lord Patel Lord Patel Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Dementia is the dreaded diagnosis, particularly for the elderly, as it affects more than 5% of people over 65 and between 20% and 40% of those aged over 85. Because of the increasing number of elderly people, an increasing number of people are affected. I commend the Government and congratulate them on taking the initiative at the G8 and particularly on involving the WHO, because now it will become a global initiative. I have two questions. The first is about the funding that the Government announced. There is a great deal of confusion. Is it new money, money that has already been allocated to research or money that the Department of Health is giving for better diagnosis of dementia? Research on dementia must also focus more widely on understanding the biology of the disease, the inflammatory process and the epidemiology. Ring-fencing around a disease will not necessarily get to the point that the Government wish to get to. Secondly, what impact do the Government think the EU regulation on data protection will have on dementia research?

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The noble Lord asked a number of questions. The Government have stated an ambition to double research funding in dementia. That will depend on the quality of the proposals that come forward and on the rate of scientific progress. We very much hope that arising out of the summit, momentum will be gained, not only in this country but internationally. As regards the noble Lord’s second question, we recognise how important this is for future dementia research and I can tell him that the Government, through the Ministry of Justice, are negotiating with member states in Europe and are aware of the impact that the proposal would have on research. It is likely to be some months before there is an agreed approach between member states and the Commission, and the Parliament is unlikely to vote on the proposal before 2015.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

The Minister will no doubt be aware that there is growing interest in this country in assessing whether drugs used for conditions other than dementia might be useful in tackling dementia. Will the Minister say what efforts the Government are going to put into this area as a result of the G8 summit?

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, we certainly hope that the private and charitable sectors will respond to the call, but at the same time the Government are not dictating to the research funding bodies which projects they should support. The Haldane principle is very important. The noble Lord makes an extremely powerful point, and we would hope that the pharmaceutical companies will wish to step up to the plate.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister be kind enough to explain exactly what is going to be achieved by training public servants such as bus drivers in dementia, what is the purpose behind it and what we hope those public servants will be able to do?

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My noble friend raises an important issue, because it is going to be increasingly necessary for not only health and care professionals but members of the public to be properly attuned to dementia and the needs of those who have the condition. We want to see all those who deal with the public trained in dementia, at least to a basic level, in a way that is appropriate to their level of engagement with those who suffer from dementia. Dementia training is now a key part of Health Education England’s mandate.

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench

My Lords, I would like to add my congratulations to the Government, and in particular to the Prime Minister on his personal commitment and on securing the summit focusing on dementia. I ask the Minister whether there are any commitments from other G8 countries, both for research and for the other side of this, which is care and how we help the growing number of people—it will be one in three of us in the near future—who are going to experience dementia, in all the G8 countries and beyond.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, it is perhaps too soon to expect concrete proposals from other G8 countries, but I can tell the noble Baroness that the summit was not the end of the story. The G8 countries will be meeting throughout 2014 to build on and develop further agreements. We have agreed to host the first legacy event on social-impact investment in March next year. That will be followed by an event in Japan on what new care and prevention models could look like, and by an event hosted by Canada and France on how industry can harness academic research. There will then be a meeting in the United States in February 2015. We hope that the momentum generated by the summit will elicit the kind of commitments that the noble Baroness rightly seeks.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

Is the Minister aware that after the very brief exchange about dementia yesterday, I heard it suggested that dementia should not be grouped in any way with mental illness because of the stigma involved? Surely the solution to that is that we must all work to remove any stigma from all kinds of mental illness.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The noble Lord is absolutely right, but he will recall that the question yesterday dealt with the WISH summit, which was focused specifically on mental health and not on dementia. I did not mean to imply that there should be any less emphasis on tackling stigma in both areas.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I, too, welcome the result of the G8 dementia summit, but what progress is being made in appointing nurses who specialise in dementia in the same way that there are nurse specialists for cancer, rheumatology and epilepsy? Dementia UK’s admiral nurses are wonderful and provide real help to patients and families, but there are a mere 103 for an estimated population of 800,000 dementia patients.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My noble friend raises a very important point. I come back to the point that I made a short while ago: people with dementia in practice access all parts of the health and care system. We want all staff who care for people with dementia to be trained to the level of their engagement so as to deliver high-quality care for people with dementia. I mentioned that dementia training was a key part of Health Education England’s mandate. Already, 100,000 NHS staff have received dementia training. As my noble friend will know, decisions on the commissioning of admiral nurses are made locally, but I recognise the work that they do.

Photo of Lord Walton of Detchant Lord Walton of Detchant Crossbench

Does the Minister accept that much of the increased incidence of dementia is a result of the fact that many of us are living much longer than was the case in the past? Does he further agree that there is clear research evidence to suggest that continuing intellectual and physical activity, care and attention to diet, and control of blood pressure can delay the onset of dementia in many individuals, and that, as a consequence, once early dementia appears, programmes to promote such physical and intellectual activity are very valuable? In such programmes, volunteers play a very important part across the country. What are the Government doing to promote these projects?

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The noble Lord, as ever, makes some extremely good points. My department is looking at the role of volunteers in a number of areas. He is right that increased age is the greatest predictor of dementia. It has been estimated that delaying the onset of dementia by two years could decrease the global disease burden by 22.8 million cases by 2050. The point that the noble Lord makes is therefore well made, and I have no doubt that there will be an increasing focus on this over the coming years.