Health & Lifestyle

Dementia patients can wait up to TWO YEARS for diagnosis, audit shows

Dementia patients can wait up to TWO YEARS for diagnosis because of ‘postcode lottery’ of care, audit shows

  • The average waiting time for diagnosis is 17.7 weeks, up from 13 pre-pandemic
  • Some people are seen immediately but others can wait up to 104 weeks
  • 35% of patients had an appointment via phone or video call over the pandemic
  • More than 80% reported challenges relating to virtual appointments 

Dementia patients face a postcode lottery of care with some waiting up to two years for a diagnosis, a damning audit reveals.

Patients are waiting an average of 17.7 weeks to find out if they have the condition after being referred to a memory assessment service, up from 13 weeks pre-pandemic.

However, the average masks a huge range in times, with some people seen immediately while others face waits of up to 104 weeks, the report reveals.

This compares to a range of three to 34 weeks in a 2019 NHS audit.

Dementia patients face a postcode lottery of care with some waiting up to two years for a diagnosis, a damning audit reveals. Picture: file image

Dementia patients face a postcode lottery of care with some waiting up to two years for a diagnosis, a damning audit reveals. Picture: file image 

Last night Hilda Hayo, chief executive at the Dementia UK charity, said the ‘stark’ findings were ‘unacceptable’. She added that thousands of families are struggling to get a diagnosis plus receive advice and support.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists compared data from 63 clinics across England and Wales between 2021 and 2019 in the first major analysis of how the pandemic has affected dementia care.

It revealed that 35 per cent of patients had an appointment via phone or video call.

More than 80 per cent of the 115 patients or their carers who replied to a survey carried out as part of the research reported challenges relating to virtual appointments.

NHS recruits reiki healer 

An NHS trust has been slammed after placing an ad for a reiki healer despite there being ‘no scientific evidence’ that it helps patients.

Manchester University Trust is looking for a ‘spiritual healer/reiki therapist’ on up to £26,000 a year. Reiki, which originated in Japan, is intended to relieve stress and pain by channelling ‘universal energy’ from a healer.

A charity is funding the position, but The Good Thinking Society, which challenges ‘pseudo-science’, insisted: ‘The NHS shouldn’t be endorsing it, even indirectly.’

NHS England said there was ‘no scientific evidence’ that reiki was an effective clinical treatment. The trust stressed that reiki ‘does not in any way replace established medical treatments’.

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These included barriers due to visual or hearing impairment, difficulties in using the technology, and the person being assessed presenting differently on the phone compared to face-to-face.

One patient said: ‘Being told you have Alzheimers by a stranger on a TV screen is quite hard to take in.’

In the first lockdown, 62 per cent of services were closed for between one and six months.

Staff being redeployed or being unable to work due to the pandemic affected 83 per cent of services.

It resulted in a postcode lottery with fewer than half of patients – 43 per cent – getting all four in-clinic routine assessments. Seven per cent of patients had no in-clinic routine assessments at all or it was not documented.

The number receiving all four routine assessments ranged from 0 to 100 per cent, exposing vast disparities across the country.

Research has shown that individuals with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia but that this effect can be reversed by hearing aids.

Yet only 58 per cent of patients had a discussion recorded about hearing and only 61 per cent had a discussion about eyesight.

For the other two assessments, 76 per cent had a discussion about their history of falls recorded while 78 per cent discussed their alcohol consumption. An estimated one million Britons will be living with dementia by 2025.

An NHS spokesman said: ‘The number of referrals for memory-related conditions in the last three months is higher than the same period in 2019.

‘NHS staff are working hard to restore services and improve support.’

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