My Lords, I welcome the Government’s commitment in the gracious Speech to bring forward a draft mental health Bill. I hope that the consultation, ending in June, will be followed by early legislation. I particularly hope that the provisions of the Bill will address dementia, which is the fastest-growing health condition in the UK and, apart from the suffering and distress it causes, is set to be the most expensive condition by 2030.
Almost 1 million people in the country are currently living with dementia, costing the economy £25 billion a year. Among the leading causes of death, dementia is the fastest-rising health condition, with the number of sufferers expected to increase to more than 1.6 million by 2050. Despite this, no new treatments have been approved in the UK to prevent, slow down or cure the diseases that cause dementia in nearly a decade. I hope that the Government will deliver on the manifesto commitment to the dementia moonshot, to double funding for dementia research and speed up clinical trials, as soon as possible. We should establish a dementia medicines task force to drive dementia research and clinical trials, as has been done in other fields—most recently Covid.
I also welcome the Government’s commitment to publish and implement a women’s health strategy, which would be closely integrated with the promised forthcoming dementia strategy. Dementia has been the leading cause of death for women for more than a decade. In 2020, around 46,000 women died from dementia, compared with 33,000 from Covid-19. Women are at greater risk of dementia than men, although dementia was the third most common cause of death in men in 2020, after Covid-19 and heart disease. Nearly two-thirds of dementia sufferers are women. The lifetime risk of developing dementia for women is one in five, compared with one in 10 for men. Nobody yet knows why this should be.
I welcome also the Government’s commitment to invest £2.3 billion to increase diagnostic activity and to establish 160 community diagnostic centres. Dementia is seriously underdiagnosed and should be specifically included—I hope in the legislation—in the scope of the community diagnostic centres. In the long term, the Government should in my view provide the resources, infrastructure and clinical workforce to build adequate diagnostic capacity. Dementia is a condition directly or indirectly affecting nearly every family in the land. I hope that the Government will now give priority to research into its causes, diagnosis and treatment.