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Call over dementia service access
Dementia sufferers need better access to memory specialists, MPs have said after a report revealed that some patients are waiting over a year to be seen.
The all-party parliamentary group on dementia found there are "shocking variations" of waiting times for memory services across the country, with some patients waiting a few weeks and others waiting for more than a year before they are seen by specialists.
The average waiting period was three months, found the report. Having access to memory services is a key part of the diagnostic process and delayed diagnosis is detrimental to patients, the authors said as they called for "major improvements" to local services. The group said local services should be on a national register to raise standards and improve accountability.
Baroness Sally Greengross, chairwoman of the group, said: "We urgently need to make early diagnosis for people with dementia a priority and memory services are a key part of this. The Prime Minister has recently acknowledged the importance of improving quality of care for people with the condition, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
"Improving diagnosis rates will mean more people with dementia being able to access support and treatment that can help them and their family achieve the best possible quality of life."
The Alzheimer's Society says that just over two-fifths of dementia sufferers are ever formally diagnosed.
The charity's chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: "What we are hearing today is that many people are being let down by services that are meant to be helping them get a timely dementia diagnosis. Now we need MPs to get in contact with local health services and GPs to help us find out exactly what is happening at a local level across the UK and to collect the data we need which is vital for pushing forward change.
"Through compulsory accreditation and investment in improving memory services we can help drive up rates of diagnosis and enable people with dementia to access the support they need. By ensuring people have the support they need at the time they need it we can also save money, as fewer people will need costly and distressing crisis care."
Jo Webber, NHS Confederation deputy director of policy, said: "Dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. It is quite clear that every part of the health service is going to have to adapt to the needs of this growing group of patients - from the GP surgery to the hospital ward. We have to be honest and say we are not there yet.
"Raising the standards of dementia care will require moving services out of traditional hospital settings and into residential care and people's homes where they can receive the most responsive care. It will mean providing more support and training for GPs so they are better able to meet the needs of their patients."