Alistair Burns’ video blog on the ambitions for the dementia services going forward

NHS England’s Dementia Director, Professor Alistair Burns, has posted a video blog on the ambitions for services going forward.

He makes the target clear: that by next year two-thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia should have a diagnosis and post diagnostic support.

Professor Burns explains that current rates of diagnosis are relatively low, at around 48 per cent, adding: “Less than half of people estimated to have dementia have been given a diagnosis – but we know that there is significant variation in diagnosis rates from 38 per cent to 77 per cent.

“We also know that people with dementia want a diagnosis and they want investigations.”

“Clinical Commissioning Groups are achieving the required levels of diagnosis and diagnostic support,” says Professor Burns, adding that NHS England is doing various things to help, such as launching the dementia prevalence calculator, which was published in March 2014 and gives a local guide to the estimated numbers of people with dementia.

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. Jerry Palmer says:

    This is a cc of a letter to the Guardian dated 1.119. Your article (31.12.18) about the NHS Health Check and dementia risk was a useful contribution to public awareness. The hyperlink to NHS assessment was a quick pathway to information about how to access the services. However, if – like me – you started from the print edition, the pathway was frustratingly cumbersome, as the first step is to work out what the Google search terms should be. I spent 20 minutes scrolling through irrelevant links before I thought of going to the online Guardian to see if there was any information there that was missing from the print version.

    Given that the service is aimed at the over-45s, with less familiarity with hyperlinks, etc., it’s not surprising that the take-up rate is low.

    Jerry Palmer

    cc. Alastair Burns, national clinical director, dementia, NHS
    Laura Phipps, Head of Communications, Alzheimer’s Research UK
    Jamie Waterall, Public Health England

  2. b kerin says:

    what’s needed more than anything is help for those people who have a dementia diagnosis and for their carers. There needs to be a co-ordinated approach with social care, help managing daily life and better support to understand how to relieve the stress of dementia sufferers.

  3. Mary Smith says:

    As the daughter of someone who has been living with dementia for many years now, I can tell you that whilst people may want a diagnosis, what they will want next is HELP!. That doesn’t need to be high tech expensive professionals. It could be something as simple as a network of befrienders who will come in for an hour to make a cuppa and have a chat with the person:
    a) freeing family to have a break, secure in the knowledge that their family member is happy
    b) providing stimulation for the person with dementia, which , without any doubt at all, is the best way to maintain function.