Dementia diagnosis rates to rise in West Sussex

DRAMATIC increases in the diagnosis rate for West Sussex people suffering from dementia were predicted at a County Hall meeting on Thursday.

The West Sussex joint commissioning board was told there was now a commitment from NHS Sussex to provide the cash for establishing a memory assessment service from August, 2012 - £2.3m a year.

Tom Insley, principal manager, mental health and substance misuse, said he was really pleased with this development.

The impact of the service on the dementia diagnosis rate in West Sussex would be to increase it from 32 per cent in 2011 to 60 per cent by March, 2015.

A report presented at the meeting said the service would be publicised widely, and in a way that specifically included younger people developing dementia, people with a learning disability, and under-represented groups such as people from minority ethnic groups.

The roll-out of the service would be synchronised with co-ordinated GP training and awareness of how to access the service.

But there was a warning from one member that people should not assume an early diagnosis automatically meant the condition could be cured.

Responding, Dr Mike Sadler, the county council’s executive director of health and social care, told the board: “With many conditions, like cancer, early diagnosis means a cure - that isn’t the case here.”

To the best of his knowledge, there was no clearly demonstrated evidence that dementia could be prevented for the majority of cases.

As far as the most common form was concerned, it was not believed there was any obvious prevention.

Board chairman Cllr Michael Brown said they were still suggesting that 40 per cent of people with dementia might still be undiagnosed in 2015.

“How long will it take for every adult suffering from this condition to be diagnosed in a timely fashion?” he asked.

Mr Insley said further investment would be needed to achieve a bigger increase. The highest diagnosis rate in the country was at present about 58 per cent.

The board was told that new services which had come on stream over the last two years included a dementia crisis service, a care home in-reach service, and enhanced mental health liaison services.

The investment had resulted in improvements including fewer people being admitted to dementia psychiatric in-patient beds, and stays in these beds shortening; a shorter average length of stay for people with dementia in acute hospitals; and an improvement in the quality of life for people in care homes.