Dementia deaths to quadruple by 2040, says study

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The number of people dying from dementia and cancer is set to soar in coming years, increasing pressure on end-of-life services, research suggests.

Experts from the Cicely Saunders Institute of King’s College London analyzed mortality data from 2006 to 2014 and projected trends to estimate the future impact on palliative care services in the NHS.

They estimate that the number of people in England and Wales dying from dementia will quadruple, from 59,199 in 2014 to 219,409 in 2040. Cancer deaths could see an increase from 143,638 in 2014 to an estimated 208,636 in 2040.

The study, published in the BMC Medicine journal, suggests that the number of people dying each calendar year will increase by 25% to 628,659. It concludes that palliative care needs will rise by 42.4% by 2040, with at least 160,000 more people needing care each year.

Currently, it is estimated that around three-quarters of people need some level of palliative care, but researchers believe this could reach 85% over the next 23 years.

Lead author, Dr Simon Noah Etkind, from the Cicely Saunders Institute, said: ‘By 2040, national data suggests there will be a rise in the prevalence of chronic progressive illnesses, and we believe many of these will require symptom relief and palliative care.’

Professor Irene Higginson, the Institute’s Director, said: ‘There is an urgent need to act now to transform health, social and palliative care services to meet the projected growth.’

Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) described the findings as ‘very alarming’ and called for investment into ‘pioneering research’.

ARUK’s Director of Campaigns and Partnerships, Rob Burley, added: ‘Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer.

‘It is the only leading cause of death that we can’t cure, prevent or slow down. This predicted fourfold increase in dementia deaths is a wake-up call to provide more dementia-appropriate palliative care services in the community.’