Dementia diagnoses drop across region as England misses NHS target on identifying disease

The number of people across Yorkshire and the Humber diagnosed with dementia dropped by 5,000 patients in the last year amid fears lack of GP contact is affecting diagnoses.

Some 4,686 fewer people in March 2021 than the year before have a dementia diagnosis, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Some 4,686 fewer people in March 2021 than the year before have a dementia diagnosis, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

There are an estimated 66,161 people living in the region with dementia, according to the charity.

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But 41,827 have an official diagnosis, meaning just 63.2 per cent of the estimated number of sufferers have had their condition identified.

The national target for dementia diagnosis, set by NHS England is 66.7 per cent, but it has dropped some six percentage points over the course of the pandemic, the charity’s research showed, taking it under target for the first time since 2015.

The head of services for Alzheimer’s Society, Judith King, said: “The toll of the pandemic on people with dementia stretches far beyond deaths from the virus.

“These drops in dementia diagnosis rates and referrals to memory clinics are really worrying and means thousands of people aren’t getting access to the vital support and treatments they need.

“The earlier people with dementia can get help, the more effective it can be.

“Many GPs are using telephone and video appointments in an effort to clear up the backlog, and while this may be suitable for some patients it is often inappropriate for a person living with dementia.

“Face-to-face appointments are much more suitable in the majority of cases.”

The number of new referrals to the NHS’s Memory Assessment Service across England between April 2020 and March this year fell by 46 per cent, compared to the number of referrals between April 2019 and March 2020.

Memory Assessment Services, which test patients for dementia, normally have a target of diagnosis within 12 weeks of referral.

In Leeds, patients who go through the service are usually offered a support worker to help them manage after diagnosis.

Writing in The Yorkshire Post last week, Social Care Minister Helen Whately said: “ I want to see in-person services fully functional as soon as possible, because a diagnosis can make such a difference, allowing people to access the support that they need.”