More than a quarter of suspected dementia cases in Oldham lack a formal diagnosis

Older people at a charity tea party in London.Older people at a charity tea party in London.
Older people at a charity tea party in London.
More than a quarter of suspected dementia cases among those 65 and older in Oldham do not have a formal diagnosis, new figures show.

More than a quarter of suspected dementia cases among those 65 and older in Oldham do not have a formal diagnosis, new figures show.

During Dementia Action Week, which began on Tuesday, charities have called on the Government to improve diagnostic rates and invest in support for people living with dementia.

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Figures from the NHS show 2,318 people aged 65 and older in Oldham were estimated to have dementia in March 2023. Of them, 1,672 (72.1%) had a formal diagnosis.

It meant 27.9% of people believed to have dementia in the area did not have a diagnosis.

Paul Edwards, director of clinical services at Dementia UK, said dementia is a growing issue in society largely due to an ageing population.

Mr Edwards added continued cuts and a lack of focus on community services which support families with dementia have led to "thousands being stuck in limbo and highly stressed" as they are unable to get a diagnosis.

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"In this climate of stretched services and increasing diagnosis rates, we urgently need to bridge the gap between health and social care systems, so that people receive a timely diagnosis and can access the support they need," he said.

"No one should have to face dementia alone."

Across England, an estimated 687,000 people aged 65 and older have dementia. Of them, 433,000 patients (63%) had a recorded diagnosis of dementia as of March this year.

The areas in the country with the highest rate of diagnosis were Stoke (83.9%), Lincoln (82.8%), Rossendale in Lancashire (81.5%) and Ashfield in Nottinghamshire (81.5%). Excluding the City of London, the lowest rates were in South Hams in Devon (44.1%), Eden in Cumbria (45.7%) and Wychavon in Worcestershire (46.8%).

Mark MacDonald, Alzheimer’s Society associate director for advocacy, said dementia diagnosis rates hit a five-year low during the pandemic and have stagnated ever since.

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Mr McDonald added: "This means that tens of thousands of people are facing the realities of dementia alone, without access to the vital care and support that a diagnosis can bring. Timely diagnosis is crucial to manage symptoms and avoid ending up in crisis."

He said the government must commit to recovering diagnostic rates to pre-pandemic levels of 66.7% and called for a £70m investment in England’s diagnosis services.

"Getting a diagnosis can be daunting, but we believe it’s better to know," he said.

"Alzheimer’s Society is encouraging those who are concerned that they or a someone close to them may be experiencing signs of dementia to check their symptoms on our Royal College of GPs-accredited symptom checker."

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Timely diagnosis of dementia is vital, and the NHS is committed to bringing the dementia diagnosis rate back to pre-pandemic levels."

They added the forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy, will set out how to prevent, diagnose, and manage six major conditions, including dementia, that drive ill health and early death in England.

"Last week, the Health and Social Care Secretary also signed an agreement at the G7 Health Minsters’ meeting to commit to working with other nations to help tackle health issues such as dementia on a global scale," they said.