New monthly figures show that in total, dementia assessments have fallen by nearly 10,000. A total of 19,393 checks were carried out in September, compared to an average of 28,641 a month before the pandemic, a decrease in a third.
The number of general practitioner evaluations fell from 23,986 to 16,800, while evaluations in memory clinics fell from 4,655 to 2,593, a decrease of 56%.
Under David Cameron, the government made dementia a priority, setting a goal for 67% of people with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease to be diagnosed.
This target was met until the first lockdown – but during the pandemic the number of people with assessment or access to services fell sharply as patients struggled to see GPs who could refer them to specialized services. As a result, the current diagnosis rate is only 62 percent, leaving over 32,000 undiagnosed.
A separate audit of memory clinics, which normally assess and diagnose dementia, reveals widespread deterioration in services since the first lockdown.
In total, 48% said they had reduced the number of appointments, with some having closed completely. One-third of clinics said they saw only urgent or severe cases, and even more said they accepted referrals but put patients on a waiting list rather than seeing them.
The survey of 21 memory departments, completed in July, found that more than three-quarters offer patients “virtual appointments” despite fears that people with dementia may struggle with the technology.
Experts have warned that people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have struggled, especially during the pandemic, with increased isolation and routines and activities devastated by the lockdown.
Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influence at the Alzheimer Society, said: âIt is shocking that the pandemic has left thousands of people with dementia in the dark about their diagnosis, leaving them to live in it. uncertainty and fear. Many even struggle to see their GP, let alone an assessment to give them the answers they desperately need. “
Ms Carragher said that getting a diagnosis could “radically transform” the ability of people to cope with the disease and enable access to treatment and support, adding: “Not getting a diagnosis makes people vulnerable to the disease. effects of dementia and without tools to manage the disease. “
In July, Alistair Burns, national clinical director for dementia and elderly mental health at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said the number of people referred for assessment had dropped from 40,000 to 50,000 during the pandemic.
He told a conference that general practitioners “did as they were told” and stopped referring patients for dementia assessments at the start of the first lockdown in March of last year.