Dementia detection rates in Ipswich and East Suffolk among worst in England as one in three are undiagnosed

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Dementia detection rates among older people in the Ipswich and east Suffolk area are among the lowest in the country, new figures show.

More than one in three over-65s live with the disease undiagnosed.

Health chiefs last night insisted they are finding new ways of tackling the stigma of dementia but said they will step up work to improve diagnosis rates.

NHS England figures show an estimated 5,710 people aged 65 or over live with dementia in the Ipswich and East Suffolk area but only 3,583 are registered at GP practices with having the disease.

The detection rate of 62.8% is below the England average of 67.2% and meant the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), responsible for local health services, was ranked 156th worst out of 208 CCGs nationally in January.

Areas like NHS Blackpool (88.6%), NHS Bradford City (87.9%) and NHS Sunderland (76.6%) have far better dementia detection rates.

Experts say a diagnosis of dementia may upset some patients but can also provide welcome, long-awaited answers for others who have been suffering from a failing memory, communication problems or behavioural changes.

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An early diagnosis can also provide better future care and treatment and helps those affected plan ahead, such as dealing with financial and legal matters, while they are still able to.

A spokesman for the Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG said: “A diagnosis of dementia given earlier can help people and their families to cope with symptoms and plan for their future.

“Given Suffolk’s population is an ageing one, the CCG wants to do better and has commissioned several services to support people living with dementia.

“Over the last year, we have worked hard with carers, social care, voluntary sector and health professionals to find new ways to break down stigma and support those with dementia.

“We will strive to improve on our 62.8% diagnosis rate and continue to work with communities and partners to support people with dementia.”

The number of people living with dementia across Suffolk is expected to rise by 33% over the next 10 years, reaching 14,600, according to the Dementia Action Alliance.

Currently, between 4,000 and 5,000 people are supporting those who have not been diagnosed with dementia in the county.

Meanwhile, the UK should be the most dementia-friendly country in the world by 2020, the Health Secretary has said.

Under new plans, if a pilot scheme proves successful, everyone aged 40 and over will be given information about dementia and memory problems when they have their free NHS health check with their GP.

Current information on which regions are good at diagnosing dementia will be strengthened with Ofsted-style ratings, enabling people to make more meaningful comparisons about the quality of dementia care in their area.

People in Suffolk can call a helpline set up by Sue Ryder, Age UK and Suffolk Family Carers to support people and their carers living with dementia Monday to Friday 9am-5pm 01473 353350.