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Thousands in Norfolk and Waveney living with undiagnosed dementia, says NHS

PUBLISHED: 14:14 01 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:37 01 February 2018

Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

PA Archive/PA Images

Thousands of elderly people across Norfolk and Waveney may be living with undiagnosed dementia, according to estimates by the NHS.

Figures collected by GPs show that there are 9,968 people over 65 who have been diagnosed with some form of dementia. But estimates by the NHS, based on the age profile and gender of patients, suggest that the real figure may be 16,014.

That means an estimated 6,046 pensioners living with a debilitating illness that has not been formally recorded by their doctor.

The figures were collected in response to the prime minister’s challenge on dementia set up by David Cameron.

The Department of Health wants GP surgeries in England to increase the rate of diagnosis. The target was for at least two thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia to be diagnosed by March 2015.

The diagnosis rate for the whole of England is currently 68.3pc, but area to area this ranges from 40pc to over 90pc. Norfolk is missing the national target with a rate of 62.9pc.

The Royal College of General Practitioners said doctors realised the importance of spotting the signs of dementia early but in some circumstances might delay making a formal diagnosis in the interests of patients and due to pressure on services to support them.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the RCGP, said: “There may be some situations where GPs might validly consider it in the best interest of the patient to delay seeking a formal diagnosis, especially in the early stages of the condition if there is minimal adverse effect on daily living and functioning and where patients do not want to be labelled.

“This decision might also be influenced by GPs knowledge of the local availability of assessment and treatment services, which may be insufficient to meet demand.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said getting a diagnosis allows people with dementia to access emotional, practical, legal and financial advice, as well as any support and treatment available.

The society’s senior policy officer, Andrew Boaden, said: “Dementia diagnosis rates vary significantly from place to place, which is concerning. Alzheimer’s Society research shows that over a third of people with dementia in the UK don’t get a formal diagnosis, and we believe everyone with dementia has a right to know.”

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