UK charities in plea for more help with dementia

Leading health charities are calling for more to be done to help families support loved ones with dementia as it lags behind other diseases in terms of funding.

Dementia funding support is a major issue in the UK. Picture: Mark Mainz

A data report from BBC Local News partnerships has laid bare the growth in dementia with some parts of the UK seeing the rate of diagnosis more than double in five years.

The Shared Data Unit has analysed the dementia registers of thousands of GP surgeries across the UK to paint a definitive regional picture.

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Latest figures show there were around 508,000 people on the dementia register of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish health officials estimate there are a further 18,990 living with the condition north of the Border where the figures are based on estimates of diagnoses over the course of the year.

The BBC said all Scotland data is based on estimates made in 2016.

Dementia is in the spotlight these days not least of all because of the popularity of the BBC drama Elizabeth is Missing, which stars Glenda Jackson as Maud, an elderly woman living with dementia who struggles to piece together a double mystery.

The film is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Emma Healey, published in 2014.

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”.

Dr Karen Harrison-Dening, head of research and publication at Dementia UK said: “I think there are two main issues here.

“The first is that we are going to have a huge increase in population of older people, and one of the main risk factors of dementia is age. There is also going to be a reduction in the number of younger people who will be able to care for them.

“We still have a very, very poor response to this. We need to sharpen up considerably.

“Technology is getting better and we are starting to effect a diagnosis earlier, but the question is, then what?

“The second element is there is a huge population that already has dementia.

“This is one aspect that concerns Dementia UK as there is a growing number of those people that we have a duty of care to. That is going to only increase in cost.”

In 2012 the UK government launched an initiative to increase the diagnosis rate of dementia.

At the time it was estimated only 40 per cent of those living with the condition had been officially diagnosed.

Dementia care costs the UK just under £35bn per year, with two thirds of that being footed by families rather than the government.

In Scotland, the places with the largest percentage increases were Ayrshire and Arran (33 per cent), Orkney (20 per cent), and Dumfries and Galloway (15 per cent).

Ewan Russell, head of policy and campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Across the board we are seeing increasing numbers of people living with dementia and simply not enough support is being provided.

“Alzheimer’s Society has published a report this week from London School of Economics showing that by 2040 the number of people living with dementia will have doubled, but the costs of care for those people is going to triple. Costs have gone up to £35bn in 2019 and will have trebled to £94bn in two decades.

“Families are bearing two thirds of the costs of dementia care. With more people getting it, we do not think that that is sustainable at all.”

Prof Sube Banerjee, executive dean at Plymouth University’s Faculty of Health, professor of dementia and old age psychiatrist, said: “The National Dementia Strategy suggested that we should double the number of diagnoses that were made in the UK and that was underlined as a priority by David Cameron in his Prime Minister’s Challenge. This set a target diagnosis rate of 67 per cent. I think that has been achieved.”