08/11/2012 02:44 GMT

Dementia: Cameron Calls For One Million 'Friends' For Sufferers

The Prime Minister is calling on a million members of the public to provide support for dementia sufferers.

David Cameron has set out his ambitious plan to create masses of "dementia friends" who will be able to spot the signs of the condition and offer support for sufferers.

Cameron, who says that tackling dementia is a "personal priority" of his, hopes that one million people will sign up to receive coaching sessions by 2015.


Cameron has said supporting people with dementia is a 'top priority'

The sessions, which will be provided in church halls and workplaces, will help to raise awareness and teach people how to support those with the condition.

"We cannot underestimate the challenge we face in dealing with dementia in our country," he said.

"There are already nearly 700,000 sufferers in England alone but less than half are diagnosed and general awareness about the condition is shockingly low.

"Last March I made clear that I wanted to do something about that and we are now going further and faster to help people and their carers, and to support the research needed to prevent and treat the condition.

"Through the Dementia Friends project we will for the first time make sure a million people know how to spot those tell-tale signs and provide support.

"There is still a long way to go in fighting the disease but together we can improve the lives of millions."

There are 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK and the number is expected to rise significantly with the ageing population.

Cameron has also announced that the Government will be giving almost £10 million for dementia research and £50 million to make wards and care homes more comfortable for people with dementia.

He also announced other initiatives to boost early diagnosis and help the public to better understand the condition.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK said: "At a cost of £23 billion a year to the UK economy, we all agree that dementia is not a problem we can ignore.

"Finding treatments for Alzheimer's and other dementias is no easy task, but it's one we must tackle if we are to make a real difference to people's lives."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Too many people with dementia feel cut off, lonely and fearful without the support and understanding they need.

"We need to build a society where people can live well with dementia, enjoying the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.

"I want Britain to be one of the best places to be for dementia care."

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Day to day tasks such as going to the shop or catching a bus can become increasingly difficult for people with dementia. Without a helping hand, this can mean people are left feeling isolated, unable to be part of their community and in some cases even unable to continue living at home.

"Dementia Friends is our latest and most ambitious answer to how we can change this picture. We want to rally a million people behind the cause of helping make a better life for people with dementia.

"I am confident we will not only meet this target but beat it. Dementia is everyone's problem and we all need to be part of the solution."

Hunt told Daybreak it was important to remove the taboo around dementia, saying the issue is "where cancer was in the 1960s" with people not wanting to talk about it.

He said: "One of the problems with dementia, and we should say the NHS is brilliant in so many ways, but I think even inside the NHS people realise we have to do a lot better."

Mr Hunt stressed early diagnosis was important to dealing with the condition and improving patients' quality of life.