More than half a million people will be living undiagnosed with dementia in the UK by 2021, with a postcode lottery for diagnosis.
That one of the findings from a “dementia map” launched today by charities Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland, and supermarket giant Tesco, and designed to identify the gap between the number of people with the condition and those diagnosed in all parts of the UK.
The map, which is available in an interactive format online, shows massive disparities between areas, with Northern Ireland leading the way on diagnosis.
Against a UK average of 40%, all five health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland had a diagnosis rate of over half, with Belfast topping the table with 69%. By contrast, Dorset had a rate of 26% and the East Riding of Yorkshire 27%.
“We’ve known that there are differences between areas for some time. What this is showing is the vast differences between areas,” said Alzheimer’s Society head of policy and public affairs Andrew Chidgey. “We need to know all the reasons why diagnosis rates are so different.”
“Good-quality diagnosis and early intervention for all” is one of the government’s four priorities for dementia, under its approach to implementing the dementia strategy, published by its Labour predecessor in 2009.
Diagnosis has improved since the launch of the strategy but there is still a way to go, Chidgey added.
“We need to do more work to ensure that doctors feel confident about recognising symptoms and referring people on to services.”
He also called for the development of many more memory services to assess and provide early intervention for people following the onset of dementia. The Royal College of Psychiatrists accredits local memory services that meet certain standards, but there were just 40 accredited schemes across England and Wales as of last October.
Today’s figures for diagnosis are based on submissions from GP practices, while those for numbers with dementia are based on latest population figures and prevalence rates calculated for Alzheimer’s Society’s 2007 Dementia UK report.
Tesco has made Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland its charities of the year, and the partnership aims to raise £5m by 2014 to help boost diagnosis levels. Plans include a roadshow, which will visit Tesco stores in different parts of the country to raise awareness of dementia and encourage people worried about their memory to visit their GPs.
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