Longer waits for memory services

Waiting times for memory assessment services increased markedly during the pandemic, an audit conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has indicated.

Average waiting times from memory service referral to diagnosis increased by more than a third between 2019 and 2021, rising from 13 weeks to 17.7 weeks on average.

The audit also indicated that more than 70% of services underwent periods of closure and more than 80% had staff redeployed during 2020.

But waits varied across the country, ranging between 0 and 104 weeks in 2021 compared with between 3 and 34 weeks in 2019.

Dementia diagnosis rates have fallen due to the pandemic, stagnating at around 62%, well below the national target of 66.7%.

“This audit paints a bleak picture for dementia diagnosis in large parts of the country,” said James White, Alzheimer’s Society head of public affairs and campaigns.  “Behind these statistics are potentially thousands of people missing out on months and months of vital support and treatments that could relieve their symptoms and enable them to stay independent for longer.”