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Dementia surge "puts NHS at risk"

Unless dementia funding rises in line with the predicted surge in the condition over the next 20 years, the NHS will not survive, leading scientists have warned.

Experts from 11 universities and colleges across the UK made the claim in an open letter the Health Secretary.

In the letter to Alan Johnson, they condemned "pitifully low" funding for research into the disease and claimed one of the consequences of the increasing burden of dementia would be to put the NHS itself at risk.

Dementia care currently costs the UK economy more than £17bn, but that is expected to double to £35bn within 20 years. An increasingly aging population is expected to push the numbers of people with dementia up significantly in coming years from 700,000 currently to over one million by 2025.

In the letter, Professor Simon Lovestone from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London, and 10 other dementia experts, said: "As the NHS turns 60, the question isn't whether it will last a further 60 years, but if it can survive the next 20.

"Funding for dementia research is pitifully low, while care costs are at an all-time high. With the prevalence of dementia expected to double within a generation, the health service as we know it may well be unsustainable."

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the The Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "If underinvestment persists, the economic consequences arising from dementia care costs will be catastrophic."

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