Jeremy Hunt’s recent visit to Japan passed almost unnoticed in Britain. Yet the issues he discussed with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, and the health minister, Norihisa Tamura, touched on a problem that is likely to dominate social policy in the next decade: dementia care. One in four of the Japanese population is over 65. By 2050, the proportion will be 40%. There are already 4.6 million people with dementia in Japan. Britain, with 10 million people over 65, has 800,000 people living with dementia, at an annual direct cost to the Treasury of more than £10.2bn pounds. By 2050, Britain is expected to have around 1.7 million dementia sufferers.
Not surprisingly, the condition has been a prominent concern to past and current policymakers. In 2009, the Labour government unveiled an ambitious dementia strategy, which aimed to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers through greater understanding within society and improved services. Last year, the coalition government also emphasised the need to improve dementia care, with David Cameron launching his “challenge on dementia”, which identified three major goals: better health and care, fostering “dementia-friendly” communities, and improved research. (more…)