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MPs and peers launch inquiry into dementia diagnosis rates

Published 20 December 2011

Diagnosis rates of dementia have increased by just two per cent to 43 per cent in the past year. This means most people with the condition are still being left without vital support and treatment.

In light of the new NHS data, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia (APPG) is launching an inquiry into how to improve diagnosis rates.

The cross-party group of MPs and peers will aim to uncover why diagnosis might not be happening, why diagnosis rates differ around the country, the financial benefits of an early diagnosis and what is needed to support people following a diagnosis.

A survey carried out by Alzheimer's Society ahead of the inquiry launch found that one in five GPs do not feel well informed about the treatment and care available to patients with dementia. This placed dementia fourth out of five conditions which GPs were asked to say how well informed they felt. It ranked below asthma, diabetes and breast cancer but ahead of multiple sclerosis. GPs in London and Wales were more likely to not feel well informed than other parts of the UK (28 per cent and 29 per cent respectively).

Research by the Department of Health, ahead of their current dementia awareness campaign, also found that only around a third of adults aged over 40 understand the differences between normal signs of ageing and signs of dementia.

Baroness Sally Greengross, chairperson of the APPG, said:

'Almost 60 per cent of people with dementia are struggling in the dark without a diagnosis. Because their condition has not been recognised they are being denied vital support, information and possible treatments. This can't carry on. We need to find out why this is happening and open the door to a better life for people with dementia across the UK.'

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society which provides the secretariat for the APPG, said:

'Although diagnosis rates are increasing, the stark reality is that they are not improving fast enough. Only by working out the reasons for these unacceptably low levels can we start to make a difference. Early diagnosis and early support not only helps a person live better day to day but also stops them reaching crisis point. This brings the additional benefit of saving the NHS and social care system many millions of pounds a year.'

The inquiry is now inviting key groups including commissioners of health and social care, GPs, health and social care staff and people with dementia and their families to share their experiences of dementia diagnosis in all countries in the UK. To have your say, visit alzheimers.org.uk/appg