By 2025 scientists will have developed a cure for dementia or at least a drug that significantly slows its progression, Alistair Burns, NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia, said this week.

Advances in treatment will eventually catch up with those made in cancer care, he claims, as the “interest in dementia shown by politicians and the public is feeding through into research”.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has in the past referred to dementia as “one of the greatest enemies of humanity”, recently unveiled a £15-million dementia fund to help fuel progress in the search for new drugs. 

The number of people being diagnosed with dementia has been steadily rising and as of December an estimated 394,000 were added to the dementia register, up from 250,000 in 2009, while associated costs in the UK have already topped £26 billion.

But it is estimated that only around half of patients have received a formal diagnosis, leaving a significant number still under the radar and without treatment and support.

“I think the first thing that needs to be done to improve diagnosis is to tackle the stigma and the fear that people have about it,” Professor Burns said, noting that the condition is more feared in the over-50s than cancer or heart disease.