Dementia is one of ‘biggest healthcare crises we have’

The Oxford Times: Dr Clare Mackay is leading dementia research and welcomes the G8 cash boost. Picture: OX64099 Ed Nix Buy this photo » Dr Clare Mackay is leading dementia research and welcomes the G8 cash boost. Picture: OX64099 Ed Nix

FUNDING for dementia research in Oxford could at least double after the Government announced a major funding boost.

A doctor who co-ordinates the city’s research efforts has taken part in discussions over the announcement on funding made yesterday at a meeting of the G8 leaders in London.

Dr Clare Mackay said she hoped a long-term funding pledge – £132m by 2025 – would help provide a dedicated MRI scanner for sufferers in the county.

And if funding is doubled, at least 20 specialist jobs could also be created, Dr Mackay, co-ordinator at Oxford Dementia and Ageing Research said.

MRI scanners are much better at detecting conditions such as Alzheimer’s than CT scanners currently in use.

Oxford is one of six major English research centres into dementia, along with three in London, one in Cambridge and another in Newcastle.

Dr Mackay – who co-ordinates research between the county’s NHS and Oxford University – said: “It is fantastic news. As a community, we have struggled for a number of years to raise the profile of dementia.”

The county traditionally has higher than-average life expectancy because of its comparative affluence which leads to more issues with dementia.

About £5m-£10m a year goes to the NHS and Oxford University researchers.

This figure could now rocket.

She said: “We hope our funding will at least double.”

Dr Mackay attended a panel debate ahead of the announcement at the G8 summit.

About 8,000 people in Oxfordshire are thought to have dementia – up from 6,600 in 2010.

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron last year launched his Dementia Challenge to tackle the condition, now on the rise because of the UK’s ageing population.

As a result, funding was already increasing before this latest announcement.

Dr Mackay said: “The amount has gone up considerably in the last couple of years. Since last year’s call to action by the Prime Minister, there has been an amazing upturn in activity, which has culminated in the G8 summit.”

This has seen collaboration rather than competition between the centres, she said. The cash will hopefully provide an MRI scanner for Warneford Hospital, East Oxford, giving clearer images than CT scans, she added.

While Alzheimer’s is not curable, the challenge is to delay the onset of disease for as long as possible.

Dr Mackay said: “I am motivated by being a part of the solution to probably one of the biggest healthcare crises that we have.”

Mr Cameron told the summit: “This is a disease that steals lives, wrecks families and breaks hearts.

“If we are to beat dementia, we must also work globally, with nations, business and scientists from all over the world working together as we did with cancer, and with HIV and Aids.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s director of external affairs, Hilary Evans, said the cash was a “clear backing” for UK scientists.

Age UK Oxfordshire chief excecutive Paul Cann said: “It is incredibly exciting. It is a very bold leadership step, but it must be accompanied by more drug and practical service support.”

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