Call to increase the diagnosis rate for patients with dementia

We need to increase the diagnosis rate for patients with dementia, Professor Alistair Burns said today.

Speaking today on the Community Stage at Camp Expo in Manchester, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Dementia said the current rate of less than 50 per cent was not high enough.

Professor Burns, also Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at the University of Manchester and the Manchester Health Academic Health Science Centre, has made regular calls for more research, better diagnosis and improved support.

Today, while debating the issue with Professor June Andrews, Professor in Dementia Services and Director of Dementia Design School, Stirling University and Beth Britton, a blogger and campaigner on dementia, he continued to champion his vision for the future of NHS services.

Prof Burns said: “Our aspiration is to increase the diagnosis rate and close the gap. It’s a very important point about the variability of services. One of the things that we do at NHS England, working with colleagues in social care, is to raise the profile. There’s also been specific interest in young people with dementia and that’s very important too.”

He said one of the current initiatives, Dementia Friends, was about people gaining better understanding and it has recently been rolled out to big businesses encouraging them to sign up. He also said the Better Care Fund was important in actions such as reducing attendances to A&E.

“The Carers’ Call to Action is a fantastic initiative,” he continued, “Everyone should sign up to that. It’s extremely important.”

It was also debated how England’s rates of dementia diagnosis were falling behind other countries such as Scotland which has a 65 per cent rate compared to England’s less than 50 per cent. But Professor Burns said it wasn’t just about diagnosis but also about the package of services available after diagnosis.

He said: “The health service here is different to in Scotland but I think there’s a nuanced way of getting the diagnosis up. It’s not just a number.”

Other areas considered during the debate included community hubs, treatment for patients who had other long term issues as well as dementia and how every patient should be treated as an individual case.


  1. Charlotte Peters Rock says:

    Dementia is a health issue. We must stop tossing people about between the NHS and (currently commercial -but failing us) social care, and actually take full account of their health needs.

    Being diagnosed dementia, is – for the person diagnosed – a really depressing ‘end of any quality of life’ thought. When there is little help available, why should anyone queue up to be told they have dementia.

    I have had to fight for every smidgeon of help, and am still doing so.

    As the family carer of a husband who has vascular dementia, my own health is under enormous pressure, because at 68 years of age, I can see no future, no time for myself, no free space in my brain, to just ‘be’.

    The NHS and others are constantly telling family carers that ,’ for your own health’ you must take respite.

    Then when we try to do that, even in a very minor way, we are tipped across to so-called social care, which either refuses to deal with us, deals very badly with us, or strips us of all we possess, for the health help which we need in order to continue saving the country money by working round the clock, caring.

    My health need is for short periods of time, of 2-4 days during the year, to continue pursuing my own interests, where on occasion I work very hard, but in a different way to the usual caring.

    If I can no longer continue to do those things which I have done for many years, then after my husband dies, I will have nothing left. Nothing.

    At 68 years old, I may well need to care for my husband for several more years. He is 86. I can’t see any future, if I am never to be allowed a break, to sleep a full night, to pursue my own interests, and just ‘to be’.

    By all means diagnose dementia, where it exists.. but please don’t bother, if there is going to be no support in place.

  2. ian metcalfe says:

    I have dementia through the prescriptive drug Zopiclone.
    I cannot access Alzheimer society because a referral is required, from the doctors who have brought this upon me. This is insurance and litigation driven, whilst my mental health declines. ‘Double up if you can’t sleep’ was the outcome of my recent consultation diagnosis. Despite my insistence that the drug was harming my mental health. it is very, very addictive
    Valium, thalidomide springs to mind. let’s make the professional class of ”Doctor’ be held responsible for their actions.