The outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a new national mission to tackle dementia in memory of the late Dame Barbara Windsor.
This comes after Scott Mitchell, Dame Barbara’s husband, visited Downing Street last week and discussed the scale of the suffering and trauma the disease causes and the currently slow process of finding a cure.
In response to this, Boris Johnson has set aside an additional £95m to meet the Government’s manifesto commitment of doubling research funding by 2024.
The funding will increase the number of clinical trials and research projects carried out, with the mission aiming to put the more successful elements of the Covid Vaccine Taskforce into action by bringing together the NHS, academia, and those with lived experience of dementia.
Boris Johnson said: “Dame Barbara Windsor was a British hero. I had the pleasure of meeting her both on the set of Eastenders as Peggy Mitchell, and at Downing Street as we discussed the injustices faced by dementia sufferers. I am delighted that we can now honour Dame Barbara in such a fitting way, launching a new national dementia mission in her name.
“Working with her husband Scott, and on behalf of everyone who is living with dementia or has a loved one affected by this devastating condition, I am doubling research funding and calling for volunteers to join ‘Babs’ Army.’ We can work together to beat this disease and honour an exceptional woman who campaigned tirelessly for change.”
Up to 40% of dementia cases are thought to be potentially preventable, with knowledge of the causes of the disease still quite poor – one million people are estimated to be living with dementia by 2025, and an extra 600,000 on top of that by 2040.
Scott Mitchell said: “The first in 15 Prime Ministers and over 70 years to grasp the nettle and reform social care, I’m so pleased that Boris had the conviction to do this reform. I’m so honoured that not only has he reformed social care, but he’s also committed this new money in Barbara’s name to make the necessary research breakthroughs to find a cure for dementia.
“Barbara would be so proud that she has had this legacy which will hopefully mean that families in the future won’t have to go through the same heart-breaking experience that she and I had to endure. I can’t stop thinking about her looking down with pride.”
A recruitment process is set begin for a taskforce lead, with the appointed candidate to focus on encouraging action whilst ensuring the best and most efficient use of taxpayer money.
The programme will take advantage of recent technological advancements, including AI, the latest brain imaging technology, and genomics.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, said: “Anyone who lives with dementia, or has a loved one affected, knows the devastating impact this condition can have on their daily lives, but for too long our understanding of its causes have not been fully understood.
“By harnessing the same spirit of innovation that delivered the vaccine rollout, this new Dementia mission, backed by £95 million of government funding, will help us find new ways to deliver earlier diagnosis, enhanced treatments and ensure a better quality of life for those living with this disease, both now and in the future.”
Volunteers are able to register their interest via the Join Research Dementia website, with the Prime Minster urging people to join ‘Babs Army’ and sign up for clinical trials.