New plans to improve dementia diagnosis rates

NHS England is set to target “shockingly low” diagnosis rates of dementia in England in a move that could see tens of thousands of people identified and treated each year.

The announcement of the drive to completely overhaul dementia diagnosis was made today by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia reaches its first year.

The plans aim to see two-thirds of people with dementia identified and given appropriate support by 2015, an increase from 37 per cent in 2010 and the current average of around 45 per cent.

Dr Martin McShane, Director NHS England said: “NHS England recognises that dementia is a national priority and is committed to working with Clinical Commissioning Groups and Health and Wellbeing Boards to achieve transformation in the quality of care and support for people with dementia , and for their carers.

“We know that a diagnosis is the first step to accessing appropriate care and support.

“We are delighted that Clinical Commissioning Groups across the country have taken the first steps in addressing the national ambition; with new information provided by NHS England to support them to understand the scale of the challenge at a local level and the opportunities for individuals and their carers when that diagnosis and support is achieved.

“We relish the opportunity to share best practice and effective ways of meeting the needs of people with dementia once diagnosed with our colleagues in Clinical Commissioning Groups and Health and Wellbeing Boards.”

There are currently 670,000 people with dementia in England but 350,000 of those people remain undiagnosed and without access to support.

With the number of sufferers set to double in the next 30 years and costs expected to rise to £19 billion, improved diagnosis will be key if the system is to cope effectively with the predicted surge in numbers.

The focus will also see a correction to the existing postcode lottery on diagnosis rates. Although the average diagnosis rate across England is now at around 45 per cent, up from 42 per cent in 2010/11, this still leaves more than half of people undiagnosed.

Hitting the two-thirds ambition will see an extra 160,000 people diagnosed in 2015 compared with the number identified this year. This will bring them the benefits and reassurance of help and support with the condition.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “For too long diagnosis rates have been shockingly low and leaving too many people living in the dark suffering with this terrible condition undiagnosed, unable to get the help they need and deserve.

“I am pleased that NHS England has set a clear direction and sent a message to the NHS that we must do more. I fully support every GP, doctor and health worker who accepts this challenge.”

To read more on the Dementia Progress Report, go to the Department of Health website.  See also UK to use G8 to target global effort on dementia and the The Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia: Annual report of progress.

For further information, please e-mail the NHS England media team at or call 07768 901293.