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Dementia diagnosis target should be 75% by 2017

Million undiagnosed Alzheimer’s cases and 2m overall by 2051, warns charity

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A maximum 12-week wait for a dementia diagnosis after seeing a GP must become priority, Alzheimer’s Society said this morning, as it called for a diagnosis target of 75% by 2017. The charity reported that without preventative public health interventions, there could be more than 2 million people living with dementia in the UK by 2051 – about a million of them without a diagnosis.

The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia is due to end in just over 6 months, but Alzheimer’s Society wants it to have a successor that prioritises:

  • a 66% dementia diagnosis rate across all areas so that people do not miss out on the support currently available – with a commitment now to reach 75% by 2017
  • no one to wait longer than 12 weeks from seeing their GP to diagnosis
  • a guarantee that everyone has access to a Dementia Adviser or equivalent following a diagnosis to help them live as well as possible at all stages of the condition.

The charity’s chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: “While in recent years there has been a small improvement in dementia diagnosis rates, a postcode lottery still prevails. Everyone with dementia should have access to the certainty of a diagnosis and the right support to come to terms with and manage the condition. If we do not see a nationwide effort to improve diagnosis rates we could see more than a million people living with dementia without a diagnosis by 2051.”

Professor Martin Prince, professor of epidemiological psychiatry at King’s College London, commented: “The scale of the future dementia epidemic in the UK can probably be limited through more attention to prevention – our progress towards achieving healthier brain ageing needs to be monitored in regular national surveys.”

Alzheimer’s Society’s latest report Dementia UK, which it commissioned from the London School of Economics and King’s College London, also revealed the huge cost of caring for people with dementia, which is now a total of £26bn. People with dementia and their carers – who provide 1.3 billion hours’ unpaid care – are paying a £5.8bn bill for social care such as assistance with washing and dressing, while the cost to the NHS of dementia diagnosis and care is £4.3bn; the disease costs local authorities another £4.5bn. The charity is urging the Government to “end the artificial divide between health and social care which unfairly disadvantages people with dementia”.

Jeremy Hughes said: “Our social care system is on its knees … today’s report reveals we need radical solutions and serious funding commitments to put social care on a sustainable footing.”

In the charity’s other report out today, Dementia 2014: Opportunity for change, based on a survey of more than 1000 dementia sufferers, it found that although more than half (58%) of people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have dementia said they were living well, almost two-thirds (61%) said they had recently felt anxious or depressed, and seven in ten said they were living with another medical condition or disability as well as dementia. Of those who were looked after by a carer, 43% said their carer did so without any outside help.

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