Some parts of the UK have seen the number of people diagnosed with dementia more than double in five years, analysis of NHS data shows.

A drive to increase diagnosis rates and an ageing population were behind the increase, experts said.

Charities said dementia care provision must improve, calling it a "ridiculous lottery", and "very hit or miss". NHS England said it was a priority to diagnose dementia earlier so people could receive correct treatment.

Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the number of people on the register has risen by 40% to around 508,000. Scottish health officials estimate there are a further 90,000 people living with dementia north of the border.

Prof Sube Banerjee, from Plymouth University's Faculty of Health, said there had been a target by NHS England to increase diagnoses.

Ten years ago, only a third of people with dementia were diagnosed, and when they were it was late in the illness when it was too late to help them make choices about treatment.
Prof Sube Banerjee

He said he believed a target diagnosis rate of 67% set in the National Dementia Strategy had now "been achieved". A report from the London School of Economics shows the cost of dementia to the UK economy is £34.7bn per year.

Dr Karen Harrison-Dening, head of research and publications at Dementia UK, said there was no standardised service across the country.

Care at the moment is very hit or miss. We rely heavily on families to care for their loved ones themselves. If you developed cancer in later life the NHS would step in. There would be NHS Continuing Healthcare, Macmillan nurses and bereavement support, but far less likely in dementia.
Dr Karen Harrison-Dening

Often the support simply is not there and when it is there, it is often poor quality. It is heartbreaking and not right that people with dementia have to battle to get the care that they need. The government has to step in and boost people's support. It is a ridiculous lottery that people with dementia can lose their homes and savings and that has to end.
Ewan Russell, from the Alzheimer's Society

NHS England said it was "good news" that "thanks to concerted efforts nationally and locally" more people had been diagnosed with the disease. It said early diagnosis and treatment was a "top priority".

English local government spending on adult social care rose by 11% in the same period, the BBC Shared Data Unit found. Meanwhile, from 2016 to 2019, NHS England increased its spending on dementia care by 18%.

 

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