Figures suggest a decrease in the number of people being officially diagnosed with dementia, between February and June 2020, due to the coronavirus lockdown.
- There has been a significant decrease in dementia diagnosis rates – from 67.6% in February to 63.5% in June 2020. Source – NHS Digital publication of recorded dementia diagnoses.
- Data also shows a sharp drop in the number of referrals to memory services. There are usually on average 2,600 referrals from primary services to memory clinics per month yet data showed only 84 referrals in April, 435 in May and 994 in June. Source – Alzheimer’s Society calculations based on NHS Digital publication of recorded dementia diagnoses.
- With many memory services moving to offering remote consultations, Alzheimer’s Society raises concerns over the potential of all services becoming virtual. This could disadvantage people without digital literacy or internet access, as well as those with cognitive and sensory impairments which would make remote consultations more challenging – the validity of remote consultations has been questioned with due to time lags in connectivity, an uncontrolled environment, and other technology difficulties.
Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer’s Society said,
‘As society negotiates the devastating impact of coronavirus and attempts to prepare for a possible second wave, another hidden crisis is growing.
The recent sharp drop in both dementia diagnosis rates and referrals to memory clinics means a huge group of people will be living without an official diagnosis, unable to get financial, legal and emotional advice, as well as any support or treatment available.
‘This is particularly alarming when we know lockdown has led to people’s dementia symptoms becoming more severe – our recent survey showed half of people with dementia reported increased memory loss and over a quarter losing daily skills like cooking or dressing.
‘We urgently need a clear plan from the Government for how services can reprioritise routine screenings, combatting growing waiting lists for memory services and making sure people feel safe to access health services they are entitled to. A lack of official diagnosis and the support that brings could lead to deterioration in people with dementia’s condition, in turn risking unnecessary hospitalisation. People with dementia have been hit hardest by coronavirus and without action, they could face a huge health crisis further down the line.’