Sharp rise in dementia diagnosis rates across East Sussex

Health news. Photo: Shutterstock
Health news. Photo: Shutterstock

The number of people diagnosed with dementia in part of East Sussex has almost doubled in five years.

In the area covered by the NHS High Weald Lewes Havens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the number of people listed on the dementia register has risen by 95 per cent in five years – constituting the tenth biggest rise in England.

In April 2014, there were 844 people diagnosed with dementia in the area, but by March 2019, this number had almost doubled to 1642, according to figures released by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit.

A drive to increase diagnosis rates, as well as an increasingly ageing population, are believed to be behind the increase.

A spokesman for the East Sussex CCGs welcomed the rise and said: “This reflects our success in delivering on both national and local priorities for people with dementia and those that care for them.

“By ensuring that people have access to effective diagnosis at an early stage in their illness it ensures they can benefit from appropriate treatment and support to allow them to live well with dementia.”

The increase comes after the Government launched an initiative to increase the diagnosis rate of dementia in 2012.

At that time, it was estimated that only 40 per cent of those living with the condition had been officially diagnosed.

Professor Sube Banerjee, executive dean at Plymouth University’s Faculty of Health, said: “The underlying issue was that 10 years ago only a third of people with dementia were diagnosed and when they did it was late in the illness when it was too late to help them avoid the harms of dementia and help them to make choices about treatment.

“The National Dementia Strategy suggested that we should double the number of diagnoses that were made in the UK.”

Elsewhere in East Sussex, numbers have also risen – though not as dramatically.

In the area covered by the NHS Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG, a rise of 56 per cent has been recorded in the number of people on the dementia register, from 1677 in 2014 to 2618 last year.

Towns covered by the NHS Hastings and Rother CCG have also seen an increase of 56 per cent, from 1462 to 2274.

The spokesman for East Sussex CCGs said getting a formal diagnosis benefitted both the person with dementia and those that care for them, by opening access to appropriate treatment and referral to post diagnostic support.

The CCGs, in partnership with East Sussex County Council, provide ‘robust’ Memory Assessment and Post Diagnostic Support services – which helps people maximise their access to benefit entitlements, the spokesman said.

Going forward, the CCG said it was committed to working with District and Borough Council partners to promote dementia friendly community principles across East Sussex.

A spokesperson for NHS England said it was ‘good news’ that the NHS was now diagnosing more people than ever before.

“Spotting dementia in a timely way means people get the care they need, when they need it,” the spokesman said.

“As the population ages, dementia is becoming a challenge for more families, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a blueprint for older people’s care and makes early diagnosis and treatment for major health problems a top priority.”

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