Figures released this week have revealed an increase in the number of people in the East of England that have been diagnosed with dementia. There are now almost 32,000 people diagnosed with the condition – an increase of 2,000 since last year.
Crucially though, there are thought to be another 47,000 people who are living with the condition in the East of England but who aren’t diagnosed. The new figures reveal national variations ranging from a diagnosis rate of 32% (East Riding of Yorkshire) to 75% (Belfast). There are also significant variations in the diagnosis rates across the region: in Cambridgeshire there was a 41.3% rise in the number of people being diagnosed with the condition between 2011 and 2012. In Peterborough the rise was 42.2% over the same period while Norfolk saw a lower rise of 36.3%. National figures show there were 293,738 people diagnosed with the condition in 2012 up by 44.2% on 2011.
Paul Dunnery, Area manager for Alzheimer’s Society in East Anglia said:
“It’s encouraging to see an increase in the number people that are receiving a diagnosis in East Anglia – but half of people that are living with dementia aren’t receiving the support, benefits and the treatments that are often available. The NHS has made a commitment to improving diagnosis rates so now it is time for that commitment to turn into action locally, to help ensure people in East Anglia can live well with the condition.”
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health said:
“The small improvement in dementia diagnosis is good news, but the extreme variation across the country is unacceptable. It’s time for the worst performing areas to wake up to the dementia time bomb. While many areas do excellent work, the worst is diagnosing just a third of people with dementia - delaying vital treatment and causing unnecessary suffering.
“I have committed to making this a year of dementia awareness. I will shortly visit every region, encouraging those responsible to make a difference. I want local areas to set ambitious targets for improved dementia diagnosis. We must make England one of the best places in Europe for dementia care.”
LOCAL CASE STUDY: Fiona Lyall-Grant, Cambridge
Fiona’s mother, Christine, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 59. Fiona believes that Christine’s early diagnosis was incredibly important, as it enabled her to live independently for 9 years before going into a care home. Christine was one of first to be given Aricept; Fiona is convinced the drug slowed the onset of her mother’s Alzheimer’s. The diagnosis was fairly straight forward following an MRI scan at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and Fiona and her mother were given the diagnosis together.
Fiona says: “Early diagnosis is incredibly important as it gives a person some control over their lives, and it enabled my mother to live independently for 9 years before she had to go into a care home.”
Over the last year, Alzheimer’s Society has worked with Tesco to run a Dementia Roadshow which has toured the UK, including visits to Peterborough, Colchester and Flitwick. The charity is also distributing thousands of leaflets about the importance of diagnosis to GP surgeries and other community facilities in the East of England at the end of January.
The charity’s advice is to speak to your GP if you are worried about your memory and experiencing symptoms such as: struggling to remember recent events (despite being able to recall things that happened in the past), finding it difficult to follow conversations or programmes on TV, having problems thinking and reasoning and regularly forgetting the names of friends or everyday objects.
People who are worried about their memory can also contact Alzheimer’s Society on 0300-2221122 or can visit www.alzheimers.org.uk/memoryworry