Email and web-chat will help meet the dementia challenge

Alistair Burns, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Dementia welcomes a new online service to help people with dementia, their families and carers:

Tackling dementia is a priority for NHS England.

It is our ambition that two thirds of people with dementia should receive a formal diagnosis and accompanying post diagnostic support.

A timely diagnosis and support are key aspects of improving the quality of care for people with dementia, their families and carers.

We also have the challenge of reducing the average wait across England for a full dementia diagnostic assessment which currently stands at six weeks from GP referral.

Three quarters of memory services offer people an assessment within an average of six weeks but in some areas the wait can be much longer. This situation is unfair to patients and their carers and clinically unacceptable. We have committed to investing £90 million to tackle dementia diagnosis.

Three major British businesses have all pledged to train their staff to provide support to customers with dementia.  Marks & Spencer, Home Retail Group – which own Argos and Homebase – and Lloyds Bank – have 120,000 staff in total.

Following the landmark agreement between the G8 countries in December 2013, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that Dr Dennis Gillings has been appointed by the Prime Minister as our World Dementia Envoy.

He plans to create a World Dementia Council to stimulate innovation, development and commercialisation of life enhancing drugs, treatments and care for people with dementia, and in protection of those at risk of dementia.

With a view to supporting people with their families and carers, we have commissioned NHS Choices to set up a free email and web-chat service.

People who subscribe to the email service will get six emails – one each week – giving them access to the best online content from high quality sources such as the Alzheimer’s Society.

By covering a different topic each week, the service delivers vital information in manageable chunks to help users break down the many challenges they face into achievable tasks.

The email programme will cover key areas including understanding dementia, getting the best dementia care, caring for someone at home, social care and support for carers.

NHS Choices has joined forces with the Alzheimer’s Society to offer a web-chat facility with advice and support to dementia sufferers, their families and carers. People can access the web-chat via the on-line NHS Choices Dementia Guide where there is a web-chat button which people can click on to start an anonymous, real-time web-chat with a trained adviser from the Alzheimer’s Society.

This service is available Monday to Friday 9am to 12 noon. Outside of these hours there is a phone number for people to call the Alzheimer’s Society direct.

I would welcome any comments you have. Please email me at:

Professor Alistair Burns

Alistair Burns is Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at The University of Manchester and an Honorary Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist in the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. He is the National Clinical Director for Dementia and Older People’s Mental Health at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

He graduated in medicine from Glasgow University in 1980, training in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry in London. He became the Foundation Chair of Old Age Psychiatry in The University of Manchester in 1992, where he has variously been Head of the Division of Psychiatry and a Vice Dean in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, with responsibility for liaison within the NHS. He set up the Memory Clinic in Manchester and helped establish the old age liaison psychiatry service at Wythenshawe Hospital. He is a Past President of the International Psychogeriatric Association.

He was Editor of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry for twenty years, (retiring in 2017) and is on the Editorial Boards of the British Journal of Psychiatry and International Psychogeriatrics. His research and clinical interests are in mental health problems of older people, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He has published over 300 papers and 25 books.

He was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2016, received the lifetime achievement award from their old age Faculty in 2015 and was awarded the CBE in 2016 for contributions to health and social care, in particular dementia.


  1. Lisa Thomson says:

    I suffer from bad anxiety. I am currently on tablets for it. Recently a lot has happened in my life to make it worse. I have been off work for the past two weeks. I now have a very inflamed lining of my stomach. My Stomach is in a lot of pain making all sorts of noises. I feel sick in side and very unwell. I am off my food at the moment. The doctor has giving me something for this. I am stuck in my bed all the time at moment.

    The anxiety tablets I have have be increased. She wants me to double up my tablets with lower dose and higher at moment. Don’t know what she means cant work that out. If you could answer that please.

  2. Elvira Markova says:

    We have a one year old baby girl and she is due to have her shots now. My partner has a family history of cancer and I’m wondering if we need to do a genetic test before doing the vaccines to our baby? Can it be related with the vaccines if there is any genetic illness in the family ?

  3. Sarah says:

    I’m 17 I haven’t had a period in 3 months I’ve not had sex is this normal

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Please contact your GP or call 111 to discuss this.


      NHS England

  4. Roxy says:

    Hi I have been having hot flashes feeling dizzy and seeing white spots everywhere and when this is not happening my vision is burley and and feels like got pressure on my head what is this ?

    • NHS England says:


      Please contact your GP or call 111 to discuss these symptoms.


      NHS England

  5. Pauline Hardinges says:

    There seems a lot of talk and publicity for dementia, but there are still cases of maladministration taking place with NHS continuing healthcare. People are still being denied nursing care where it is found they have assets. This is very detrimental for them and also stressful for their family. I feel there are still very large gaps between the NHS and SS. Until the funding comes from one source there will still be problems. Some cases I have evidence of, have had there needs downgraded and in two cases the patient has even changed sex and age on a decision support tool, which is the paper the CCG’S base their decision on..

  6. Deirdre O'Day says:

    I was recently diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease and am fully aware that this is the precursor to my eventually losing my mind; and therefore my intelligence and my ability to conduct my own life as I have always done.
    But at present my mind is by no means lost, and friends and family find me much as always, if vague and forgetful at times. And yet it seems I will certainly develop so-called Dementia. As early as 1470 ‘dement’ described an insane or demented person, and unfortunately and extraordinarily in the 21st century, the general usage of the umbrella term ‘Dementia’ still obtains in some quarters regardless of its accuracy and specificity.
    And I am, thus far, certainly not mad, nor are my fellows.
    It is time for a campaign to restrict this archaic usage.

  7. Gary Howley says:

    It’s good to see that the problem of dementi is being addressed. It is a horrible disease and is crying out for research looking for solutions. There seems to be growing evidence it mu be linked to diet, obesity and ill health as well as suggested genetic links. Will these areas also be looked at?