Warning over plunging dementia diagnosis rates as targets missed for two years - Thelocalreport.in

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Campaigners have warned that hundreds of thousands of dementia sufferers risk missing out on “life-changing” treatment after diagnosis rates fell during the COVID pandemic.

Each region of England analyzed from the national diagnosis rate target of 66.7 per cent for the past two years independent shows.

Rates are calculated by comparing recorded diagnoses with the estimated prevalence of the disease. As of September this year, 437,236 people aged 65 or over in England had been diagnosed with dementia. The NHS estimates that around 703,000 people in England are living with the disease, which means around 266,000 people have not been diagnosed.

Diagnosis rates reveal a postcode lottery for patients, with performance declining across the country since 2019-20, and South West England performing worst. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not regularly publish the same data.

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South West England had an average diagnosis rate of 57.3 per cent in the 12 months from October 2021 to September 2022 – the last months for which NHS figures are available.

NHS England has stopped publishing monthly data until January 2023. Officials said this happened because of a change in the way data was collected.

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The two best-performing regions – North West England and London – averaged 66.2 and 66.5 per cent respectively in 2021-22, but still missed the target introduced by David Cameron 10 years ago.

Diagnosis rates were already declining across England before the pandemic, and have continued to do so every year since. The last time any region hit the national target was in 2019-20, with only London, the North West and the North East achieving levels above 66.7 per cent.

Before April 2019, the NHS did not publish separate breakdowns for the Midlands, East of England, North West or North East, so the figures for 2018-19 in these areas are average rates over six months rather than 12

(Table: The Granthshala. Source: NHS Digital)

The reason for the disparity between regions is unclear. South West England NHS officials were unable to explain why the diagnosis rate there was particularly low.

Nationwide, the Covid pandemic has severely affected diagnosis rates, campaigners and the NHS say.

People with suspected dementia are usually given cognitive tests by a GP to check their mental ability. Often the last step in the diagnostic process is a brain scan, once simple assessments — such as blood tests — have ruled out other problems.

But many people stayed away from GP surgeries at the height of the pandemic for fear of catching coronavirus, and rates are yet to improve even though restrictions are due to end in early 2022.

The lockdown has contributed to huge backlogs in GP appointments and referrals for diagnostic services. NHS figures published in October showed 184,000 patients in England were waiting three months or more for a test.

Despite an additional £17m being released to clinical commission groups in June 2021 to improve the process of diagnosing dementia, the average rate for England in September 2022 was still short of target at 62.2 per cent. This was up only slightly from 62 percent last September, and was still well below the 68.8 percent recorded in September 2019, before the pandemic.

Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the situation “has not improved markedly” in recent months despite cash injections given to frontline diagnostic services.

David Cameron introduced target rates for dementia diagnoses 10 years ago


She said that while receiving a dementia diagnosis was “very difficult” …

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