Dementia sufferers wait for a year for diagnosis: report

Dementia sufferers are waiting up to a year for a diagnosis, MPs have warned, as they called for an end to ‘shocking variation’ in standards around the country.


People with memory problems often think it is an inevitable part of ageing and do not go to their GP, a report on dementia said.

By , Medical Editor

6:20AM BST 03 Jul 2012

Fewer than half of people thought to have dementia have been formally diagnosed and those who have been seen may have waited anything from a few weeks to a year, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia has found.

The average wait for an appointment in a memory clinic, which is a key part of the diagnostic process, is three months, the report said.

GPs were a ‘barrier’ to a diagnosis, the report said, and need more training in spotting the symptoms of the disease.

People with memory problems often think it is an inevitable part of ageing and do not go to their GP, with one in ten never seeking their family doctor about their concerns, the report said.

Those who are diagnosed often receive little or no information or support afterwards ‘leaving them isolated’.

In the foreword to the report Baroness Sally Greengross, chairman of the group, said: “It is shocking that today fewer than half of people with dementia have a formal diagnosis. This also varies significantly across the country.

“In Belfast 70 per cent of people receive a diagnosis, but in parts of Wales this figure is less than 40 per cent. Even in areas with the highest rates more than a quarter of people with dementia are living in the dark without a formal diagnosis. There is clearly a long way to go.”

She added: “We urgently need to make early diagnosis for people with dementia a priority and memory services are a key part of this.

“The Prime Minister has recently acknowledged the importance of improving quality of care for people with the condition, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“Improving diagnosis rates will mean more people with dementia being able to access support and treatment that can help them and their family achieve the best possible quality of life.”

Almost 60 per cent of the 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK never receive a diagnosis.

Targets should be set to improve diagnosis rates and GPs and other healthcare professionals should routinely ask questions to identify people with symptoms, the group recommended.

Training should be extended for GPs who also need better screening methods to help them identify patients, the report said.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “What we are hearing today is that many people are being let down by services that are meant to be helping them get a timely dementia diagnosis.

“Now we need MPs to get in contact with local health services and GPs to help us find out exactly what is happening at a local level across the UK and to collect the data we need which is vital for pushing forward change.

“Through compulsory accreditation and investment in improving memory services we can help drive up rates of diagnosis and enable people with dementia to access the support they need.

“By ensuring people have the support they need at the time they need it we can also save money, as fewer people will need costly and distressing crisis care.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that diagnosis rates had improved from 33 per cent to 42 per cent in the last three years and £10m has been invested in memory clinics.

Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister, said: “While there is no cure for dementia, we know that early diagnosis and early intervention can help people take control of their condition and plan for the future.

“Some areas are doing fantastic work but there is still too much regional variation. That is why we are driving forward measures to improve the quality of memory services, including work to increase the number of accredited memory services and work to help local commissioners map the need in their area.

“We have set out our goal of making this country a world leader in dementia. There is much to do to move further and faster, but with the number of memory services increasing along with local investment, we are heading in the right direction.”

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