Dementia is a term for a range of progressive, terminal organic brain diseases. Dementia affects over 560,000 people in England and costs some £14 billion a year. Parallels can be drawn between attitudes towards dementia now and cancer in the 1950s, when there were few treatments and patients were commonly not told the diagnosis for fear of distress. There are also stigmas associated with mental health and older people's issues, which present barriers to improving awareness, understanding and openness about dementia. Despite its significant human and financial impact, the Department has not given dementia the same priority status as cancer and coronary heart disease. As a result the NHS has not afforded dementia the same focus for improvement. Large numbers of people do not receive a formal diagnosis for a variety of reasons including GPs' lack of knowledge and/or confidence to make a diagnosis, fear of dementia, and a perception amongst the public and professionals that little can be done to help people with dementia.