Prevalence calculator is vital new tool in planning dementia services

The launch of the dementia prevalence calculator is a major step forward in providing locally relevant information about dementia care and facilitating the local planning of services specifically around the diagnosis of people with dementia.

Estimates of the number of people with dementia have previously been general estimates of the population based on gender and age. But this next version of the calculator provides more sensitive and bespoke figures.

NHS England has agreed a national ambition for diagnosis rates so that by 2015 two-thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia in England should have a diagnosis, with appropriate high-quality post-diagnosis support.

A diagnosis of dementia opens the door to a variety of post-diagnostic support and can improve the lives of people with the condition and give them, their carers and professionals the confidence they are getting the care and treatment they need.

The prevalence calculator is part of a raft of initiatives from NHS England about improving the care of people with dementia and supporting their carers.

The dementia prevalence calculator is accessible to registered users including GP practice staff, clinical commissioning groups, area and regional teams of NHS England and other approved stakeholder organisations.

Providing dementia data in a consistent way on an easily accessible web platform allows GP practices and commissioners to compare themselves to any other GP practice or CCG in England, or those with similar demographics. The power of peer review among clinicians and commissioners can be a strong driver for sustained improvement. In providing comparative data in a transparent way, we will see outcomes for patients with dementia in England improve.

Using Dementia UK (2007) figures for prevalence of dementia:

  • The calculator applies these figures to a General Practice’s registered patient population, by age and by gender.
  • In order to estimate local prevalence, the tool distinguishes between the patient population in the community, and those patients living in care homes.
  • It considers prevalence at different phases of the disease (mild, moderate, severe), and by age group.
  • It compares numbers on dementia registers with numbers of patients registered for comorbid conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, in order to inform case finding.
  • It aggregates general practice data at the level of Clinical Commissioning Group.
  • Using prevalence data and the most recent Quality Outcomes Framework data (QOF DEM1), it allows the user to benchmark, and set trajectories for improvement in diagnosis rates.
  • Based on local trajectories for improvement, CCGs may determine a quantified ambition for improvement in its average diagnosis rate, year-on-year.

It will aid the understanding of local needs, both the estimates of today and allowing people to predict what will happen in the future. It will allow a careful consideration of any local gaps in knowledge and highlight where there can be areas of improvement but importantly has the potential to spread good practice and to allow and facilitate conversations between areas.

Clinical commissioning groups will be listening to the experience of people seeking help with memory problems and involving people living with dementia in the redesign of local services.

Good high-quality information underscores the development of higher-quality services which people with dementia deserve.

  • The Dementia Friends Campaign is due to be launched on May 7.
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. Elizabeth England says:

    Is there any information about the possible Delphi study that was mentioned in November 2013 after the publication of the MRC study that found different (lower) prevalence rates in the UK? Is anyone publishing new dementia rates?

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      The Delphi approach is now complete and will be launched at an event hosted by the Alzheimer’s Society at a meeting on the 10 September.

      Kind Regards
      NHS England

  2. Jo Whaley says:

    Will this tool be available to non-GPs/Area Teams? I think it could be useful to voluntary sector organisations in their planning? We’re getting used to such data being available “open source”. Thanks