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Move to improve diagnosis of dementia

MPs and peers launch inquiry into why doctors are not identifying people with dementia

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Parliament has launched an inquiry into why patients with dementia are not being identified by doctors to enable them to get the treatment and support that they require.

Diagnosis rates of dementia have increased by just two per cent to 43 per cent in the past year and a survey by the Alzheimer’s Society has found that one in five GPs do not feel well informed about the treatment and care available to patients with dementia. As a result the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dementia has launched an inquiry into how to improve diagnosis of dementia.

The cross-party group of MPs and peers will aim to uncover why patients with dementia might not be getting diagnosed and why diagnosis rates differ around the country and identify the financial benefits of an early diagnosis and what is needed to support people following a diagnosis.

Baroness Sally Greengross, chairperson of the APPG, said: “Almost 60 per cent of people with dementia are struggling in the dark without a diagnosis. Because their condition has not been recognised they are being denied vital support, information and possible treatments. This can’t carry on. We need to find out why this is happening and open the door to a better life for people with dementia across the UK.”

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society which provides the secretariat for the APPG, said: “Although diagnosis rates are increasing, the stark reality is that they are not improving fast enough. Only by working out the reasons for these unacceptably low levels can we start to make a difference. Early diagnosis and early support not only helps a person live better day to day but also stops them reaching crisis point. This brings the additional benefit of saving the NHS and social care system many millions of pounds a year.”

When the Alzheimer’s Society surveyed GPs on how well informed they felt about dementia, they placed dementia fourth out of five conditions - below asthma, diabetes and breast cancer but ahead of multiple sclerosis. One in five GPs said they did not feel well informed about dementia, and those in London and Wales felt least well informed (28 per cent and 29 per cent respectively).

The general public is also ill informed about dementia. Research by the Department of Health found that only around a third of adults aged over 40 understand the differences between normal signs of ageing and signs of dementia.

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