Elderly patients are waiting up to a year for a dementia diagnosis and face delays getting the help they need, even after diagnosis, an investigation has revealed.
More than a third of patients had to wait more than six weeks to access memory tests after being referred by a GP – the maximum waiting time recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Some patients in Wiltshire were forced to wait up to 12 months for diagnosis due to a backlog of cases and delays to CT scans.
Senior GPs called the delays “unacceptable” and the Alzheimer’s Society described the findings as “shocking”.
Equipped with the right tools
However, Ruth Keir, CEO of Cambridge Cognition, the leading British developer of neuropsychological tests suggests GPs are often not equipped with the right tools to make a rapid diagnosis.
“The dementia DES plans set out by the government are a much needed step towards increasing timely diagnosis rates," she said. "However, the raised awareness amongst the general public that it has brought about means that GPs and healthcare practitioners must be given the right tools to conduct fast, efficient and effective assessments.
"Sophisticated assessment tools will not only help to identify memory problems in a timely way, they will help to ensure that only those in need are referred to specialists, easing pressure on stretched services.”
Cambridge Cognition is the developer of CANTABmobile, a 10 minute, iPad-based episodic memory assessment that is being used in CCGs as part of the effort to improve the rate and speed of dementia diagnosis.
Repeated warnings over diagnosis delays
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, added: “Waiting for this length of time with the fear of dementia hanging over you is unacceptable.
"We warned NHS England and the Department of Health about this, and have repeatedly pointed out that the important area to focus on is not what happens in general practice but the lack of capacity of memory services and support services once a diagnosis has been made."