Let’s make beating dementia a national mission in Barbara Windsor’s memory, says Boris Johnson

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Let’s make beating dementia a national mission in Barbara Windsor’s memory, says Boris Johnson

MOST of us remember Dame Barbara Windsor as the cackling queen of British post-war comedy, who revelled in sexual innuendo that was pop-eyed and ga

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MOST of us remember Dame Barbara Windsor as the cackling queen of British post-war comedy, who revelled in sexual innuendo that was pop-eyed and gasping – yet totally innocent.

She starred in umpteen Carry On films and later became famous to a new generation as the landlady of the pub in EastEnders.

Kyle Heller / No10 Downing Street

Boris Johnson hosted a meeting on the Garden Terrace with Scott Mitchell, widow of the late Barbara Windsor[/caption]

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She was one of those natural performers who simply wanted to cheer people up.

As Mayor of London, I remember the energy and fun she brought to her causes — volunteering, or looking after your neighbours.

And then in 2018 I remember being blown away by the honesty with which she began championing a new agenda.

She and her devoted husband Scott revealed to the world that she had Alzheimer’s, and explained the toll it had taken.

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It began with forgetting her lines and then slowly, cruelly, memory loss made her profession impossible.

Dame Barbara and Scott came to No10 and urged what was then a new government to tackle one of the great injustices of our age.

She knew how randomly dementia can strike, and she knew how much it can cost.

She knew that unlike, say, cancer patients, dementia sufferers could lose a lifetime of savings and even their home just to pay for their care.

Politicians have ducked this problem ever since the NHS was formed. I’m proud to have led the first government to enact a solution.


Under my plan, the amount anyone will ever have to pay for care is capped at £86,000. We’re working with industry to help people insure themselves up to that level.

We’re giving means-tested support to anyone with assets of less than £100,000. And anyone who has less than £20,000 will never have to pay a penny.

The wheels of government have started whirring and putting these vital reforms in place in time for October next year.

We cannot go back to a world where the tragic thunderbolt of dementia can also bring with it the added devastation of financial ruin. But it’s not enough just to fix the problems of social care.

‘New breakthroughs’

As Dame Barbara implored me that day, we’ve also got to fund the research that can help speed up treatments and cures, with the same urgency that we bring to the fight against cancer.

So one of the legacies of my time as Prime Minister will be a doubling of dementia research funding to £160million a year by 2024.

And we’re not just going to invest more. We’re going to use the approach of our world-leading vaccine taskforce to make that funding go further and faster, by driving new breakthroughs against this debilitating disease.

So I’m very pleased that this week Scott has agreed we can establish the £95million Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission.

Modelled on that vaccine taskforce, this new national effort will unite government, academia, industry, venture capital and our fantastic NHS to transform the scale and pace of dementia research. And we’ll shortly be recruiting an expert in the field to lead it.

As well as innovative research, our success will depend on faster and cheaper clinical trials — and for that we need more than just test tubes. We need people.

It’s a stunning fact that sometimes it takes longer to recruit the right participants for a trial than it takes to do the actual trial.

One of the legacies of my time as Prime Minister will be a doubling of dementia research funding to £160million a year by 2024.


Boris Johnson

And because dementia can affect the brain many years before people show any symptoms, treatments need to be tested on people far earlier.

So just as The Sun’s Jabs Army helped us beat Covid, we’ll be inviting anyone with a family history of dementia to step up for a new Babs’ Army of trial volunteers, the chance for you to play a crucial part in fighting back against this awful disease.

When I met Scott this week, he described the heart-breaking moment he looked at the woman he loved and realised she no longer knew who he was.

“How do we know each other?” she asked him one day. That’s the cruel brutality of what this disease did to Barbara, and what it continues to do to many of our loved ones today.

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But we can unite to change that. So let’s come together around this national mission in Barbara’s memory and in honour of all those we have lost to this cruel disease.

And together, let’s beat dementia.

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