Government launches £2m dementia awareness campaign

Department of Health advertising campaign aims to help more people to get early treatment for dementia

The Department of Health (DH) has launched a £2m campaign to raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms of dementia.

The campaign, featuring television, radio and print advertisements, has been launched after a pilot in the north west, and Yorkshire and Humber NHS regions in March this year.

According to the DH, among people aged over 40 who saw or heard the pilot campaign there was a higher incidence of those who said they would go to their GP if they experienced any symptoms or ask a close relative or friend to do so.

There was also a significant increase in those believing that the earlier dementia is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat the symptoms, and that with the right treatment the symptoms can be slowed down.

The television advert tells the story of a daughter as she becomes aware that her father is struggling in situations, such as leaving pans on the hob and forgetting where his car is parked. While accepting it was a hard issue to raise with him, the message is that acting on her concerns and getting help means she can keep the father she knows for longer. Statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society show that there are 750,000 people with dementia in the UK, but only 40% of these people receive a diagnosis.

The DH estimates that every general hospital has excess costs of £6m because of dementia, due to the worse outcomes for length of stay, mortality and institutionalisation. In hip fracture alone, better management of patients who also have dementia could save between £64m and £102m in England every year.

Professor Alistair Burns, national clinical director for dementia at the DH, said: “Timely early diagnosis and supportive interventions allow people to plan for the future while they still can. They have been shown to reduce care home admissions and improve the quality, not only of the life of the person with dementia, but also their family, carers and friends.”

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This campaign has the potential to make a huge difference and the Alzheimer’s Society is delighted to support it.”