Dementia care may cost England less in future than had been previously thought on the back of improved treatment and scientific developments, according to experts.
In a study, co-authored by Alistair Burns, now the national clinical director for dementia, experts were asked to predict future trends in the prevalence of dementia and the treatment and care of sufferers and their projections were modelled.
The report, commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said these pointed to the costs of long-term care for people with dementia in England rising to between £14.3bn and £16.6bn by 2013, from £5.4bn in 2002.
An existing model, put forward by the Personal Social Services Research Unit, puts the costs in 2031 at £17.1bn.
The panel, which consisted of academics, geriatricians, psychiatrists and neurologists, predicted that the prevalence of dementia in the population would decrease, whereas the PSSRU model assumes prevalence will remain constant.
Most experts predicted scientific advances were likely to delay the onset of dementia by one to two years, with a quarter suggesting onset could be delayed by five years.
The panel also suggested the number of care home residents with dementia would remain constant compared with a predicted 93% rise from 2002-31 in the PSSRU model.
However, the report pointed out that any reduction in the rate of entry to care homes for people with dementia would add costs to informal carers, though this was not modelled.
In some respects, the panel of experts projected higher costs than the PSSRU model, suggesting pay and training for care assistants would improve rather than remain constant.
The Alzheimer’s Research Trust’s chief executive Rebecca Wood, said the study illustrated the case for increased investment in dementia research.
She said: “At a time when dementia research is severely underfunded, receiving 12 times less investment than cancer research, experts still believe dementia research will improve tens of thousands of lives over the coming years. If we invest properly in our dementia scientists, the potential for breakthroughs would be immense.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Adelina Comas-Herrera, lead author of the study and research fellow at the London School of Economics. She said: “I definitely think that the best way in which we can save money is to improve treatment and early diagnosis. That’s the way you save costs that benefit everyone, the patient, the family and the system.”