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20-01-2013 | General practice | Article

Dementia diagnosis variations ‘a disgrace’


Alzheimer’s Society

medwireNews: The Alzheimer's Society has condemned what it describes as "dramatic" variations in rates of dementia diagnosis across the UK, as evidenced by QOF data for 2011/2012.

The data show diagnosis rates ranged from 32% in East Riding of Yorkshire to 76% in Belfast. Although overall formal diagnosis rates have risen, the charity estimates that around 430,000 people in the UK are living with the condition undiagnosed - over half of all those affected.

The Society also reports that survey responses from around two-thirds of PCTs revealed that the average waiting time for an appointment with a memory clinic is 32.5 working days, longer than the 4-6 weeks recommended by the Memory Service National Accreditation Programme, with some reporting longer waiting times of up to 9 months.

"It's disgraceful that more than half of all people with dementia are not receiving a diagnosis, and disappointing to see such a disparity in diagnosis rates in different regions of the UK. This goes against best clinical practice and is preventing people with dementia from accessing the support, benefits and the medical treatments that can help them live well with the condition," said Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the variation in diagnosis was "unacceptable" and restated his commitment to setting "ambitious" dementia diagnosis targets. However, in an official response from the RCGP, Professor Clare Gerada said that GPs currently face "a number of obstacles" to giving patients equal access to dementia services.

"GPs need to have access to a wide range of services and resources such as memory clinics so that they can properly support people beyond diagnosis and help them live healthy, independent and productive lives for as long as possible," said Professor Gerada.

"We welcome Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's personal interest in this issue and hope that this is channelled into sustaining and increasing services, such as memory clinics. We hope that his concern is backed up with support for GPs to deliver the resources necessary to improve timely diagnosis."

By Caroline Price, Senior medwireNews Reporter