Dementia plan to improve early diagnosis in Britain

Family doctors are to be trained to spot the early symptoms of dementia and will be able to refer patients to specialists and memory clinics.

Dementia plan to improve early diagnosis in Britain

Family doctors are to be trained to spot the early symptoms of dementia and will be able to refer patients to specialists and memory clinics under government plans announced on Tuesday.

Around 700,000 people in Britain suffer from the degenerative brain condition with the number expected to double over the next 30 years.

"If we diagnose earlier we can intervene earlier," Care Services Minister Phil Hope told BBC television.

"One third of patients are never actually formally diagnosed -- many people don't get a diagnosis for three years," he said.

The National Dementia Strategy will also offer extra support to carers to help dementia sufferers stay longer in their own homes.

A publicity campaign will seek to improve awareness of the condition and remove the shame associated with it.

"We want to tackle that stigma so that more people come forward earlier so they can be supported in their own home," Hope said.

"Over a longer period of time, it would save money because fewer people would have to go into higher, more expensive residential care," he added.

Author Terry Pratchett, who revealed in 2007 he was suffering from an early form of the condition, said dementia had to "come out of the shadows".

"Cancer was the same thing. Cancer was a long illness that people had and it wasn't mentioned," he told BBC television.

But the Alzheimer's Research Trust criticised the government for not making research into dementia a key part of the strategy.

"If we do not commit to investing a lot more in research, the care costs could cripple our health service within a generation," said the charity's chief executive Rebecca Wood.

Treating dementia patients costs the NHS in England 3.3 billion pounds a year and the condition is estimated to lose the UK economy an annual 17 billion pounds.

Reuters
Last Mod: 03 Şubat 2009, 15:05
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