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Health News

Dementia diagnosis 'a postcode lottery,' says Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham


More than 50,000 people with dementia will miss out on a diagnosis over the next two years despite a pledge by David Cameron to improve check-ups and monitoring by GPs, figures reveal.

The Prime Minister announced in May a "national ambition" that 66 per cent of people suffering from dementia will be correctly identified by 2015. But a parliamentary written answer reveals the predicted rate will be 58.2 per cent, meaning more than 53,000 will miss out on diagnosis, according to a calculation by the Alzheimer's Society.

As part of his Challenge on Dementia launched last year, Mr Cameron said increased diagnosis rates could be achieved through regular checks by GPs for over-65s, greater awareness of memory clinics, and more referrals.

The target would be supported by "robust and affordable local plans". It would mean that 160,000 more people with dementia will be diagnosed than in 2011/12, and they could then receive the appropriate support.

Figures in a Parliamentary written answer for each clinical commissioning group (CCG), under the newly-organised NHS, show a national average predicted rate of 58.2 per cent. Neighbouring CCGs have widely varying ambitions, suggesting a postcode lottery.

In Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's constituency of South West Surrey, one CCG has predicted a diagnosis rate of 56.3 per cent while another estimates it will be 70 per cent by 2015. Former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has one of the lowest diagnosis rates in his constituency, of 45.2 per cent.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "It is unacceptable that over 50,000 people with dementia won't get a diagnosis because of another of David Cameron's broken promises on the NHS. On his watch, there is a fast developing postcode lottery – people are half as likely to get a diagnosis in Scarborough as in Salford.

"Worse, by cutting social care budgets to the bone, David Cameron is forcing spiralling care charges on some of the most vulnerable people in society."