Diagnosis rates vary massively

As diagnosis rates continue to languish below government targets, a new parliamentary report shows that where you live has a massive impact on whether you get a timely diagnosis of dementia.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dementia has published “Raising the Barriers: An Action Plan to Tackle Regional Variation in Dementia Diagnosis in England,” highlighting wide variations in regional diagnosis rates in England, from 88.9% in Stoke on Trent to 49.3% in Swindon.  Average diagnosis rates across England hit a low of 61% during the pandemic and have risen to just 64.1% since then, still well below the government target of 66.7%.

Findings from over 2,100 people surveyed by the APPG inquiry found that transport is a major barrier to diagnosis. The report recommends that local integrated care boards increase service provision to ensure that people can get a diagnosis closer to home.

Ethnicity was another factor with people struggling to access diagnostic assessments in their own language.

“When we’re trying to understand the challenges ethnic communities face getting a dementia diagnosis, we need to look behind the headline figures,” said Dr Karan Jutlla, Alzheimer’s Society ambassador and dementia lead for Wolverhampton University.  “From my work I know very, very, very few people from these communities are presenting themselves to services. To be able to quantify this we need to start recording the ethnicity of people who do come forward.”

APPG co-chair Debbie Abrahams MP said the report showed that diagnosis rates were a postcode lottery, adding: “It could not be more clear now that we need integrated care boards to introduce strategic local plans to increase access to diagnostic services.  Likewise, the government must significantly increase scanning capacity and workforce.”