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Elderly people from Dartford could be living with undiagnosed dementia

By Ed McConnell

Hundreds of elderly people across Dartford may be living with undiagnosed dementia, according to estimates by the NHS.

Figures collected by GPs show that there are 886 people over 65 who have been diagnosed with some form of the illness.

But estimates by the NHS, based on the age profile and gender of patients, suggest the real figure may be 1,310.

A nurse taking notes. Stock image.
A nurse taking notes. Stock image.

That means an estimated 424 pensioners living with a debilitating illness that has not been formally recorded by their doctor.

The figures are being collected in response to the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia set up by the previous PM, 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.

"...GPs might validly consider it in the best interest of the patient to delay seeking a formal diagnosis..." - Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairmain of the RCGP.

The diagnosis rate for the whole of England is currently 68% but area to area this ranges from 40% to over 90%. Dartford is beating the national target with a rate of 68%.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said that 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.”

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