Turn commitment into local action

Figures just released have revealed an increase in the number of people in the South East that have been diagnosed with dementia. There are now 26,400 people diagnosed with the condition – an increase of over 2,000 since last year.

Crucially though, there are thought to be another 39,000 people who are living with the condition in the South East, but who aren’t diagnosed. The new figures reveal national variations ranging from a diagnosis rate of 32 per cent (East Riding of Yorkshire) to 75 per cent (Belfast). There are also significant variations in the diagnosis rates across the region.

It’s encouraging to see an increase in the number people that are receiving a diagnosis in the South East – 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 the South East can live well with the condition.

Keith Oliver, 57, from Canterbury, Kent, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Keith says: “I see my diagnosis as a positive thing. It has given me a better understanding of the problems I’m experiencing, an opportunity to put my affairs in order, access to medication and support.

“I dread to think what situation I’d be in without a diagnosis, and I do my best to share my insight with others. It’s so important that everyone understands the benefits of an early diagnosis, as it’s helped me a lot.”

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.”

Over the last year, Alzheimer’s Society has worked with Tesco to run a Dementia Roadshow which has toured the UK, including visits to Rainham, Dover, Crawley, Chichester, Leatherhead and Weybridge. The charity is also distributing thousands of leaflets about the importance of diagnosis to GP surgeries and other community facilities in the South East 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 222 1122 or can visit www.alzheimers.org.uk/memoryworry


Area manager for Alzheimer’s Society in the South East, Devon House, 58 St Katharine’s Way, London E1W 1LB