[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 2 Issue 12, July 2012].
Approximately just 43% of people with dementia in the UK receive a formal diagnosis and previous research has shown that there are wide variations in diagnosis rates across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
This All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (APPG) “Unlocking diagnosis: the key to improving the lives of people with dementia” report examines how dementia diagnosis rates across the UK could be improved. This report makes nine recommendations about removing existing barriers to early diagnosis and improving the access to services and support available after diagnosis.
The APPG has identified problems throughout the process of diagnosis. There remains a widespread poor awareness and understanding of dementia and this often results in people not going to see their to doctor. There are also issues faced by GPs and memory specialists in diagnosing people with dementia, and problems concerning the quality of support offered following diagnosis. The main areas for attention are:
Public Education, and possibly more regular assessments for people at risk of dementia, and a call for dementia to play a greater role in public health.
Primary Care, in that GPs may be perceived (misperceived?) as barriers to diagnosis rather than gatekeepers. Better training on dementia awareness and spotting symptoms may help. GPs reported problems with the assessment tools available.
Variability in Memory Services which carry out detailed assessments and provide clinical diagnoses. There are areas of the country where services appear to be under-resourced.
Post-Diagnosis Support may sometimes be lacking, in that people may be left isolated and often receive no information or support following diagnosis. More should be done to improve the services and treatments available.
The main recommendations are:
- Investment in a sustained public dementia awareness campaign.
- Increasing the percentage of people with dementia who have a formal diagnosis should become an NHS target and used to lever change.
- Public health directors across the UK should make early dementia diagnosis a priority.
- Primary care workers and other health and social care professionals in contact with people in groups at risk of dementia should routinely attempt to identify symptoms of dementia.
- UK-wide, all health and social care professionals working with people at risk of dementia should have pre- and post-registration training in identifying and understanding dementia.
- Concerns about the assessment tools used by UK GPs and other primary care professionals should be explored and addressed.
- Across the UK, commissioners should invest in appropriate memory services to meet the needs of local populations.
- The role of the Memory Services National Accreditation Programme should be strengthened.
- Immediately following diagnosis, adequate information and one-to-one support should be provided to patients and their families.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (2012). Unlocking diagnosis: the key to improving the lives of people with dementia. London: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, July 2012.
The evidence and submissions taken into consideration:
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (2012). 2012 inquiry: improving dementia diagnosis rates in the UK. Summary of collated evidence. London: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Society, February 2012.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (2012). 2012 inquiry: How to improve dementia diagnosis rates in the UK. Minutes of the oral evidence session held in Commons Committee Room 17 on 13 March 2012. London: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Society, March 2012.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (2012). 2012 inquiry: How to improve dementia diagnosis rates in the UK. Minutes of the oral evidence session held in Lords Committee Room 1 on 14 March 2012. London: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Society, March 2012.