More than 3,471 people in the South West signed a letter that was today delivered to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak by Alzheimer’s Society Ambassadors Vicky McClure and Dame Arlene Philips, demanding the Government urgently fulfil its promise on dementia.

It urges Rishi Sunak to deliver on previous Conservative Party commitments to dementia and not let the UK’s biggest killer fall down the political agenda.

Actor and Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Vicky McClure said in a powerful video: “The Government is failing people with dementia. I’ve seen this first-hand with members of my Our Dementia Choir who are left struggling and alone after a diagnosis, unsure where to get the support they so desperately need. Social care workers that they depend on are often utterly broken and exhausted, trying to provide care while being overstretched, under-paid, and under-trained. by a deep workforce crisis. Those who care for people with dementia need to be supported; not neglected during a workforce crisis.

“People living with dementia and their carers must get the basic care and support they need to live fulfilled lives – things like breaks for carers, music therapy, and support groups. We’ve heard lots of ambitious words from the Government about dementia, but words need to become action. Rishi Sunak must make dementia a priority.”

Choreographer and Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Dame Arlene Philips said: “The last Government made clear commitments to drive up dementia research, diagnosis rates and improve care and now it’s up to PM Rishi Sunak to deliver them. Sadly, like thousands of families across the UK, I’ve seen the toll dementia can take, while caring for my own father. People are left desperate and alone with overstretched carers having to decide between giving them a hot meal or a wash. When the right care and treatment isn’t available, people with dementia are left at risk of crisis. This letter is loud and clear – deliver on these commitments and give people affected by dementia in this country the care and support they deserve.”

With diagnosis rates still sitting below pre-pandemic levels, national figures reveal people are waiting up to two years in some areas for a diagnosis, thereby missing out on vital treatment and support. Alzheimer’s Society research also shows three in five people affected by dementia struggled to get social care in the past year, with half of family carers revealing they ended up in crisis, such as rushing their loved one to A&E due to lack of support.

The charity is concerned the deepening workforce crisis in social care risks leaving people with dementia desperate for help while living costs soar. According to a recent survey, there are an estimated 165,000vacancies in adult social care across England, including 17,500 in the South West.

In the past year, the Government has made many commitments on dementia, promising to deliver a ‘visionary ten-year plan’ for dementia, to reform the social care system and double spending on dementia research by 2024

Alzheimer’s Society says the delivery of these will be transformational for the lives of the 900,000 people living with dementia, including 10,060 in Cornwall & Scilly but calls on the Government to urgently make these a reality to prevent a deepening crisis in dementia care.

This follows the news last year that a new drug, lecanemab, was shown to slow cognitive decline in people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, this breakthrough will mean little if diagnosis rates remain stagnant and often inaccurate. This treatment works best for people with early Alzheimer’s disease. Without early and accurate diagnosis, we risk hopeful advancements like this having minimal effect. 

Kate Lee, Alzheimer’s Society CEO, said: “Dementia awareness and support has come a long way since the disease came into my family sixteen years ago – but there is still so much to do. Too many people still face dementia alone, and PM Rishi Sunak has the chance to seize this moment and genuinely transform dementia research, diagnosis, and care for one of the biggest health challenges in the UK.

“We’ve welcomed previous commitments from the Government, but we’re concerned they’re falling by the wayside. The recommitment to the National Dementia Mission – to double dementia research spend – was a promising step but, we’re yet to see tangible action, while progress on the ten-year plan on dementia has stalled and social care reform scrapped. When asked for an update, the Government has told us ‘in due course’ 25 times, which isn’t good enough – sadly dementia doesn’t wait for ‘due course’. Quite simply dementia is not a priority.

“We’re still in the middle of a tough winter, with one in seven people with dementia stopping or reducing their support services. Families have had to make impossible choices in the face of inadequate care from a broken social care system. But hope is on the horizon – we saw the first ever drug to slow down Alzheimer’s disease late last year, showing this is a fight we can win. Our letter to the Prime Minister urges for change – a massive reform of social care, a visionary ten-year plan for dementia, and the National Dementia Mission funding to unlock treatments for people now and in the future.”