Already, more than 44 million people worldwide live with the condition. That number is growing rapidly as a new dementia diagnosis takes place every four seconds.

The financial cost is huge, today standing at some $600billion, and is forecast to rise to $1trillion by 2030. More than £1.6 billion is lost annually by English businesses as staff care for people with dementia, and 50,000 people will quit their job just this year because of caring responsibilities.


A world against dementia


While dementia has the potential to bankrupt healthcare systems around the world, we must never lose sight of its emotional cost. David Cameron has rightly called dementia ‘the quiet crisis’ in describing the distress those with dementia and their families often experience. That’s why this Government is determined to take action – and I believe we are making progress.

In December last year, we held the first ever G8 Dementia Summit in London. The Prime Minister brought together global leaders with scientists, charities, researchers and the pharmaceutical industry. The world’s attention is now focused on the disease, with genuine international enthusiasm to collaborate on research and identify a cure.

The World Dementia Council, established following the G8, will unlock the skills and funding needed to be bold in fighting dementia. As our distinguished World Dementia Envoy Dr. Dennis Gillings has said, we simply can’t afford to do nothing.


The future of treatment


Soon a million people in this country will be living with dementia. We are working hard to make sure patients get a prompt diagnosis so they can access the specialist help and support they need. The average waiting time from GP referral to assessment is being brought down across the country and we want to correct shockingly low diagnosis rates by ensuring that two-thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia receive a diagnosis and appropriate post diagnosis support by March 2015.

This government has also doubled funding for dementia research, which will reach over £66 million by 2015, and is investing more money in dementia services. The £3.8 billion Better Care Fund, which merges health and social care budgets, will contribute significantly to reminiscence services, memory clinics and other key local services.

Soon a million people in this country will be living with dementia

Over the next four years, all 1.3 million NHS staff members will be trained to understand dementia. From porters and healthcare assistants to opticians and surgeons, greater compassion in our health service will improve care for thousands of dementia patients. The training supports staff to spot the early signs, understand how best to interact with people with dementia and identify the most appropriate care and support.


Understanding dementia on a wider scale


I also want society as a whole to tackle dementia, because this is a challenge beyond any one government. Of course it’s absolutely possible to live well with the condition, though a little understanding and empathy from others goes a long way. All of us can do something to help.

We need to be good friends and neighbours, ensuring that older people aren’t isolated. One really effective way to gain that better understanding is to become a Dementia Friend. Socially responsible businesses like Marks & Spencer, Argos, Lloyds Bank and Lloyds Pharmacy are leading the way in rolling out the training for their employees.

More than a quarter of a million people have pledged to become Dementia Friends – and we are on course to have a million by next year. Hopefully by now you’ve seen the TV advertising campaign with celebrities like Chris Martin, Amanda Holden, Pixie Lott and Lily Allen, and I hope you’ll consider signing up to the Alzheimer’s Society’s programme to help more people with dementia live well in their community.

Dementia is a cruel condition that attacks the fabric of our society. I am proud that this government is taking action, but let’s all be part of the fight-back. The problem is too urgent to ignore.