A new campaign which aims to increase early diagnosis rates for dementia across England by tackling the public’s fears of talking about the condition, has been launched today by the Department of Health with support from the Alzheimer’s Society.

The A Day to Remember campaign is part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia. It will encourage people to have that first ‘difficult conversation’ with a friend or family member when they spot the signs and symptoms of dementia, and encourage them to visit their GP.

New research shows that half of people (50%) say they would find it hard to talk about dementia to a friend or family member they thought might have it. A third (33%) say that personal concerns (such as fear of upsetting someone or feeling awkward or anxious) would discourage them from talking about dementia or memory loss with a friend or relative and that nearly two-thirds (63%) of people would not be confident telling the difference between the signs of dementia and the normal signs of aging.

The three-month national campaign, launched on World Alzheimer’s Day, will raise awareness of the condition, what initial signs and symptoms look like and how to seek help. Advice on how to have difficult conversations about the condition will also be available.

Sir Michael Parkinson, Fiona Phillips and legendary England goalkeeper Gordon Banks have lent their support to the campaign, by sharing their personal experiences of dementia in a short film, at www.nhs.uk/dementia.

Delivering on a pledge by the Prime Minister to help change people’s understanding of dementia, the £3.2m campaign is part of his Challenge on Dementia, which launched in March this year. He pledged to launch a high-profile awareness raising initiative in the autumn as part of its work to develop dementia friendly communities. The Challenge has also committed to transform the UK into a leading light of dementia care and research, by driving up diagnosis rates; increasing investment in research and raising the quality of dementia care.

Initial signs and symptoms of the condition, which is caused by diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease, may include short-term memory loss that affects daily life, unexplained anxiety or depression and problems thinking or reasoning, such as finding it hard to follow conversations or TV programmes.

Just over two fifths of those living with dementia (42 per cent Department of Health estimate based on ONS population projections, March 2012) in England receive a formal diagnosis, which means that many thousands of people with the condition go without the medical or emotional support that could help to slow its progress, or to help them to live well with dementia. The number of people in England living with dementia is 670,000, but this is expected to double in the next 30 years.

To help family members and others to start talking about the condition with their loved ones, the Alzheimer’s Society have issued advice on how to have difficult conversations at www.alzheimers.org.uk/toptips