The UK will spearhead the hunt for a dementia cure
He promises an extra £83million a year for scientists who are working around the clock to solve the greatest health crisis of our time. It means the UK will spend a total of £1.6billion over the next 10 years. The extra funding comes after the Daily Express highlighted the huge disparity between the amount set aside for cancer research compared to that dedicated to scientific investigation into brain wasting diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The cash injection forms part of what has been described as the “Dementia Moonshot” – the hunt for the Holy Grail of medicine,
Mr Hancock, whose grandmother Pem Hills suffered with dementia, said: “The money is at the core of the policy but also we will set out a national mission to find a cure.
“This moonshot is going to galvanise the research community, many of whom are here in the UK. There are some hopeful signs of new drugs that can slow the onset of dementia and ultimately halt it.
“The Daily Express has been at the forefront of driving this debate forward and campaigning to make sure dementia gets the same attention as cancer.
“My grandmother lived with dementia for the last five years of her life. She was the most quick witted person I knew and to watch her decline was heartbreaking.
“I know from deep personal experience just how wonderful it would be if we could delay the onset of dementia because it would help so many families – and if we found a cure altogether it would be a huge stride forward for humanity. I am hopeful that can happen.”
The funding boost, which will see dementia research in Britain receive around £166million every year, will be administered through the National Institute for Health Research.
It will be spent on increasing the number of clinical research academics and researchers in innovative techniques such as advanced therapeutics and neurotechnologies.
A new system will also be developed to recruit patients quickly for clinical trials.
Mr Hancock, 41, watched his grandmother, a former nurse at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, Lincs, succumb to the ravages of dementia in the final years of her life.
She died aged 91 after a five-year battle with the illness.
The new funding, a central plank of the Conservative Party manifesto to be unveiled tomorrow, is recognition of the dementia timebomb facing the UK.
More than 850,000 people now live with the harrowing and incurable illness.
Mr Hancock also promised to move quickly to ensure no one was forced to sell their home to pay for care in old age, describing it as one of the greatest injustices of our time.
And he exclusively revealed that a much-delayed social care Green Paper setting out proposals would be scrapped in favour of a cross-party group.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock
He said: “Once we get Brexit done we can move on to solving these long-term issues. I am going to immediately convene a group to build a cross party consensus.
“I don’t want another commission, I don’t want another independent report – we all know what the issues are, we have got the data and everybody has had their say – what we need to do now is bring politicians together behind a solution that can stand the test of time.
“We are open to a range of options but we have three parts to the plans: our red line is that people should not have to sell their home to pay for care. The second is that we need to stabilise the system in the short-term with the extra £1billion we have announced, and the third is there needs to be a cross-party approach.”
The funding boost, which will see dementia research in Britain receive around £166million every year
Attacking “the injustice of the lottery, where if you suffer from some conditions like dementia you have to sell you home to pay for care, but if your suffer from other conditions, or don’t suffer at all, then you don’t”, he said.
“I am against forcing people to sell their home to pay for care. I mean there is no other area of policy where we say, ‘We are terribly sorry you have become unemployed – you’ll have to sell your home’. No, you get unemployment benefit.
“One of the wonderful things about Britain is that when really bad things happen that are not your fault we try to come together and come to your aid. If you become unemployed, you get supported by the State so long as you are looking for work.
“And if you fall ill you get treated on the NHS. One of the remaining injustices that people have no control over is whether they are going to need care in old age. I am absolutely thrilled the manifesto will state we will fix the social care crisis and end the injustice where people who need care have to sell their homes to pay for it.
“The desire to own your home goes to the heart of the Conservative instinct.”
Mr Hancock said the Tories had proved they were the best custodians of the health service and “categorically” declared the health service was not up for sale.
He added that the thought of Labour’s plans for a four-day week sent shivers down his spine because of its effect on the NHS.
He pledged: “The NHS is safest in Conservative hands – it has been run by Conservative Secretaries of State for most of its history and people understand you can only pay for good public services with a strong economy.
“Why can we put record sums into the NHS now? It’s because we have record numbers of people in work paying income tax.
“People ask me, ‘Where is this extra money coming from?’ Well, it’s coming from the fact we have record numbers in work. And that would all be put at risk with a coalition of chaos behind Jeremy Corbyn.
“He can make all the promises he likes but the God’s honest truth is all he could ever do is lead a ragbag coalition in Parliament.
“The four-day week would cripple the NHS. I mean, what day does Jeremy Corbyn not want the NHS to be open?
“In the last year we have hired just under an extra 3,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses and we have more to come. Imagine the pressures on the NHS if people were only able to work a four-day week.”
Mr Hancock also promised: “I am totally against privatisation of the NHS because I believe in an NHS free at the point of delivery according to need, not ability to pay. I can categorically state the NHS will not and has not been put on the table as part of any future trade talks with America.
“The only reason Labour makes that allegation is because they have absolutely nothing positive to say about the NHS or about any other issues.
“They are trying to distract attention from their hokey cokey on Brexit where they don’t know whether they are in, out or shaking it all about. They know it’s not true and they keep repeating it and, frankly, it disgusts me they are prepared to scare people with allegations they know are not the case.”
Mr Hancock praised the victorious Daily Express campaign which forced the NHS and American drugs giant Vertex to strike a deal allowing sufferers access to treatments like Orkambi. And he promised the wait for a new generation of drugs like the latest CF treatment Trikafta would not be
He said: “We have the commitment from Vertex to work with us and I am confident we will be able to make them available on the NHS once they are through their trials.
“I am confident Vertex is now committed to getting these drugs [to patients] in the normal way as quickly as possible.
“The Daily Express campaign was very powerful, not just because of how emotionally intense the need was, but also because the target was the right one.”
He went on to reveal that a Conservative government would set up a multi-million pound Innovative Medicines Fund to ensure patients get access to life-saving drugs much quicker. It would be managed by the NHS and become a source of funding for specific drugs.
Mr Hancock said domestic priorities had been shelved over the past three years as Britain wrestled with Brexit.
He claimed the country now recognised Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the only man who could break the deadlock and unleash untapped potential.
And he admitted that he feared for the future of his three young children – a daughter and two sons – if Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party was handed the keys to Number 10 after the General Election on December 12.
He said: “People from all walks of life are spontaneously saying to me, ‘Can we just get [Brexit] done and can we invest in the NHS’.
“These are the two things at the forefront of my and Boris Johnson’s agenda. People like Boris – people can relate to him because we have all got flaws.
“And the other thing people say, including lifelong Labour voters, is that patriotic people won’t vote for Corbyn. You have to believe in Britain if you want to be Britain’s prime minister and people know Corbyn doesn’t believe in Britain.”