Scotland streets ahead of rest of UK for dementia diagnosis

SCOTLAND is soaring ahead of the rest of the UK in the diagnosis and treatment of people with dementia, according to the latest UK dementia map.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) tops the league table of diagnoses of the disease, with a more than 70.2 per cent of people with dementia now diagnosed.

Lothian NHS Board has the third highest diagnosis rate in the UK at 68 per cent.

A total of 40,195 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with dementia, 64 per cent of the estimated number of people with the condition. This is significantly higher than the rest of the UK, where only 41 per cent of people have been diagnosed.

Orkney, where 274 people are estimated to have the condition, trails the rest of Scotland with just over 50 per cent of potential dementia patients receiving treatment.

However, this is significantly better than England’s worst area, Dorset Primary Care Trust, where only 27 per cent of people with dementia have been diagnosed.

The UK dementia map has been compiled by the Alzheimer’s Society, a UK charity working with people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The disease often goes undiagnosed for years with its symptoms often confused with general age-related symptoms.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, early diagnosis can ensure that people get medicine and support that can slow down the progression of the illness.

In 2008, the Scottish Government set a target for health boards to diagnose 39,578 cases by March 2011. Glasgow was just one of the NHS health board areas that exceeded its target, diagnosing 9,245 people by 2011.

NHSGGC associate medical director for old age psychiatry Dr Graham Jackson said: “These independent findings show that our rigorous management of community dementia services throughout the health board area is paying real dividends for our patients.

“Early diagnosis is essential. Whist we cannot reverse the effects of dementia there are medications which if started early enough can slow down the development of symptoms so people can maintain their quality of life for longer and have a say in their future care and treatment.”

Alzheimer’s Scotland, which worked with the Alzheimer’s Society on the research, said that although Scotland is ahead of the rest of the UK in diagnosing dementia, often people are still not getting suitable treatment after diagnosis.

The charity, which has lobbied for and helps fund 15 specialist dementia nurses across Scotland, claims that too many health boards are leaving people after their diagnosis with no support.

Henry Simmons, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Scotland, said: “Early diagnosis is nothing without post-diagnostic support.

“In order to support all these extra people who now have a diagnosis of dementia, there needs to be appropriate post-diagnostic support available for them, from a named and trained individual.

“There is no preferred systematic order in delivering this support; each person will need a unique approach and professionals will need to identify when that person and their family are ready to engage in each area.”

Currently around 25 per cent of all general hospital beds in Scotland are occupied by people over the age of 65 who have some form of dementia.