Dementia costs the UK £17 billion per year, yet the government has no plan on how to deal with dementia now or in the future, according to a report from the Alzheimer's Society.

The Dementia UK report, conducted by the London School of Economics and King's College London, estimates that in less than 20 years, the number of people with dementia will increase dramatically from 700,000 to more than a million.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said that “with every second ticking by, dementia costs the UK £539” and “we can't afford to ignore the true cost of dementia to society as a whole. Millions of people will be affected by the devastating consequences of dementia unless we act now.”

Mr Hunt argued that “a national dementia strategy” was needed to “tackle this huge challenge head on,” adding “we need to invest in dementia services, research, support and training and use what money is being spent more effectively. Planning now will save lives and money in the future.

He went on to claim that the new research shows that the government is failing to support people with dementia and their carers. Also, “dementia will place an intolerable strain on our health and social care system unless the right services and support are in place.”

His views were echoed by Prof Martin Knapp of the London School of Economics, one of the report’s authors, who spoke of the “desperate need for dementia to be made a national priority” as “the current levels of services and support for people with dementia and carers are clearly inadequate.”

Prof Knapp noted that dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life ahead of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, yet funding for research is significantly lower than these other conditions. “Even delaying the onset of dementia by five years would halve the number of related deaths, saving nearly 30,000 lives annually,” he concluded.