NHS England Chief Executive committed to improving dementia diagnosis

NHS England is committed to pushing up dementia diagnosis rates, Chief Executive Simon Stevens has told the Alzheimer’s Society Conference today.

The pledge comes as NHS England publishes a new Dementia Toolkit aimed at helping GPs make more timely diagnosis of the crippling condition and, importantly, what they can do in terms of vital post-diagnostic support.

The support covers many areas and is mainly directed at the person with the diagnosis or their carer. It relates to both emotional support and practical task-based help including specific interventions such as cognitive stimulation therapy.

Mr Stevens said: “The biggest test of the NHS is going to be how it treats older citizens and, in particular, how we treat people with dementia. If we get it right for people with dementia, we will get it right for everybody.

“This challenge is going to increase and it is a challenge in economic terms as well.

“We are looking at making a step change in improving the proportion of people who get a diagnosis. We are looking at going from under half of people currently to two thirds of people with dementia getting a diagnosis by 2015.

“Today we have published a Dementia Toolkit for GPs in which we say that there are compelling arguments against delaying diagnosis. It is increasingly important the we diagnose people with dementia.

“We have got to find ways of harnessing expertise and insight about dementia and I believe we are on the cusp of a revolution to the way we help people with long term conditions.”

Current rates of diagnosis, which show how many people have been diagnosed with dementia across the country, are relatively low, at just over 50 per cent suggesting there may be around 400,000 people living with dementia without the benefits of a formal  diagnosis. NHS England’s aim is that by next year two-thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia should have a diagnosis and post diagnostic support.

NHS programmes are being directed to the 400,000 or so thought to be undiagnosed.

Professor Alistair Burns, National Clinical Director for Dementia for NHS England, is also taking part in a debate at today’s conference in London.

He said: “Being diagnosed with dementia is the start of a life changing journey, and that’s why it’s so important that we reach our ambition of increasing correctly diagnosing dementia in more people, and putting in place the support they need and deserve.

“We firmly believe every person with dementia, who wishes it, deserves a timely diagnosis to allow them to access post diagnostic support with all the benefits that can bring for them, their families and carers.

“We are working hard to support CCGs in providing services to make high quality diagnoses. We know there is significant variation across the country and we are encouraging those with the higher rates to support those with lower rates.”

The Dementia Guide has recently been published by the Alzheimer’s Society with support from the Department of Health and the Royal Colleges of Psychiatrists and General Practitioners along with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

The aspiration is that every person diagnosed as having dementia should be provided with the information contained in it.

Its main message is – you can live well with dementia after a diagnosis.  It combines a wealth of information about dementia including the signs and symptoms and what help should be available.


  1. Melinda Whiteley says:

    Please can you mention Dr Barrett in this posting. She is a Derbyshire GP who has instigated all this work, and been nationally recognised for doing so. We should be shouting loud and clear about the expertise and care originating in our local practices, and she should be mentioned in the headlines – she is wonderful.

  2. Lydia Stevens says:

    Earlier diagnosis for a basicaly untreatable condition? Is that even ethical? This money would be better put into support for those already diagnosed. People who don’t come forward to be diagnosed have valid reasons for not doing so and we should not be forcing them to face their diagnosis if there is not a lot we can do about progression.