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MPs pin hopes on spring statement for dementia funding

Labour MP urges government to use fiscal event to honour its manifesto pledge

Pressure is mounting on the government to use its next fiscal event to deliver a promised “dementia moonshot”.

In its 2019 manifesto, the Conservative government promised to double funding for dementia R&D to around £160 million a year.

But in a House of Commons debate on dementia research in the UK on 10 February, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said the government had yet to bring forward “any of that additional funding”.

“Last year, in fact, there was a 10 per cent fall in the amount of funding provided to dementia research, so it received only £75m instead of £83m,” she pointed out. “That is a huge missed opportunity to expand our research capabilities in that area, to support the inspiring academics working in the field and to provide hope to the millions of people affected by dementia across the UK.”

Given this decline in research spending, Abrahams called on health minister Edward Argar to “commit to discussions with the Treasury about an announcement in the spring statement next month”.

“This is way overdue,” she said.

Her concerns were echoed by Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, who said it was “worrying that the state of the UK’s dementia research sector is now at risk”.

“To be honest, it is deeply disappointing that the government, two years on from their initial promise of a moonshot, have not yet brought forward the funding.”

The MPs’ comments follow widespread disappointment over the government’s failure to deliver on the “moonshot” pledge in October’s spending review.

Covid pressures

Responding to the concerns, Argar highlighted the impact of the pandemic on government spending “as we have had to focus to meet the immediacy of the Covid situation”.

He pointed out that the government had already committed to investing at least £375m in neurodegenerative disease research over the next five years and that it was working “to finalise outcomes from the spending review and to identify ways to significantly boost research on dementia”.

He added that the government was working on developing a dementia strategy that would set out plans for dementia for future years, including ambitions for dementia research.

“We are working closely with patients, researchers, funders and charities to develop these plans, and we look forward to setting out […] a bold approach to the challenges of dementia,” he said.