Progress on tackling dementia has stalled, Sajid Javid admitted on Tuesday, as the NHS dementia chief blamed the lack of in-person GP check-ups during the pandemic for a 24% drop in dementia detection rates. The Telegraph has the story.
Speaking at the Alzheimer’s Society annual conference, in London, Mr Javid said 1.6 million people in the UK were expected to have dementia by 2040, up from around 900,000 now.
Advances had been made in recent years, the Health Secretary said, “but the pandemic has stemmed the tide of progress”.
“Despite the best efforts of the NHS it became harder for some people to get a timely diagnosis because the pandemic made it more difficult to access memory assessment services,” he added.
The NHS dementia chief [Professor Alistair Burns] also told the conference that remote GP appointments meant opportunities to diagnose dementia had been “lost”…
Prof Burns said there were “pros and cons” to tele-consultations. “Crucially for me [there is the] issue of digital exclusion, people may not have access to some of the new technology and are at a disadvantage.”
Many patients have said they struggled to see their family doctor in person during the pandemic. The most recent official figures from NHS Digital show 62% of GP appointments were held in-person in March, compared with around 80% pre-pandemic.
Many aspects of primary care “slipped a bit” during the pandemic, Prof Burns added.
Citing new figures, he said the number of people at risk of dementia who were referred for assessment dropped by almost a quarter in the six months to this year, from 147,000 pre-pandemic to 112,000.
“It’s been a tough time for everyone during Covid, but I know particularly people with dementia, their families and carers have lost out disproportionately,” he said.