Leader comment: Cameron's dementia funding call is frustrating

Worthy and deserving though the cause may be, there is something uneasy about a former prime minister calling for greater funding for dementia research.

David Cameron has been announced as the new President of Alzheimer's Research UK.
David Cameron has been announced as the new President of Alzheimer's Research UK.

The key here is the label “former prime minister”. This gives away a vital piece of background – that David Cameron was once in a position of such influence that this matter could have been addressed by now.

A cynic would say that Mr Cameron’s interest in the matter is connected to him being named president of an Alzheimer’s charity, but that would be very unfair. While in office at Westminster, he was a driving force behind the Challenge On Dementia initiative.

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Any support for efforts to tackle this illness should be applauded, because it is arguably the greatest challenge society faces, as rising numbers requiring care while living longer than their forebears is going to create an enormous strain of the health service. If research can limit or slow the effects of dementia, it will represent a vital investment.

But we hear regular warnings that the UK is not properly prepared for this demographic timebomb. Austerity is also putting the squeeze on what services local authorities can maintain. Home care visits lasting just 15 minutes have been the subject of much controversy, but this is as much as under-resourced local authorities can afford.

Mr Cameron’s support is frustrating, because he could have pushed the issue of funding much harder when in office, but it has to be welcomed nevertheless. We must hope that he retains enough influence with his own party to ensure that research into dementia, and adequate support for those affected, remains firmly on the agenda.