Alzheimer’s Research UK has raised concerns about the impact a predicted rise in waiting lists could have for people with dementia. In a new report, published today, the NHS Confederation revealed that NHS waiting lists could rise from 4.2 million today to 10 million in December 2020.
The UK’s leading dementia research charity is concerned that people with suspected dementia may not be able to access the specialist appointments they need quickly enough, which is vital for an accurate and timely dementia diagnosis.
There are currently estimated to be 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, but around only two-thirds of these have a formal diagnosis. Today’s report points to a growing backlog of appointments caused by the need to maintain social distancing and guard against COVID-19 infections in hospitals.
Meanwhile, evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic may also be causing people to avoid making doctor’s appointments, which in turn may add to the growing waiting lists and could mean people are missing out on important diagnostic assessments, access to treatments and post-diagnostic support. People currently have to wait up to three months to access specialist memory clinics, therefore these latest predictions could heighten an already existing problem.
Samantha Benham-Hermetz, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“It’s extremely worrying if people are not coming forward because their worries about COVID-19 are stopping them from seeking the specialist help they need. Dementia is a progressive condition and the earlier it is picked up, the quicker people can learn to manage their symptoms, receive treatments, and plan for their future.
“We know that the NHS is still open for business, and it’s so important that appointments take place and people receive the assessments they need during the pandemic. If anyone does have concerns, whether for themselves or for someone they know, we would encourage them to talk to their GP. Today’s projections also underline the need to ensure the NHS has the necessary resources to be able to assess people with suspected dementia as quickly as possible.
“If we are to truly increase the dementia diagnosis rate, we also need to be able to detect the diseases that cause dementia much earlier. Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed, through research, to make life-changing breakthroughs possible that will transform the way we approach early detection.”