West Norfolk has one of the worst track records in the country for diagnosis of dementia.
Fewer than four in every ten dementia sufferers in the borough have their condition recognised by the NHS, leaving them without vital treatment and support.
Figures released by the Department of Health have revealed West Norfolk as the worst performing area in East Anglia and fourth worst in the whole of the UK.
Dementia diagnosis rates are just 35 per cent in the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area – compared to more than 70 per cent in some parts of the country and the national average of 48 per cent.
There are thought to be more than 2,300 dementia sufferers in West Norfolk, suggesting there are around 800 people who have not been formally diagnosed.
West Norfolk CCG, which became responsible for commissioning healthcare in the area when Primary Care Trusts ceased, has assured patients that dementia care is one of its highest priorities.
Extra training is now being given carers to “improve confidence and competence” in caring for people with the condition.
The wide discrepancies in care across the country areexposed in a report and interactive ‘dementia map’ published by the Government in a bid to improve the way sufferers are treated by the NHS.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said allowing patients to see which parts of England were guilty of “poor performance” would help tackle what he called a health and care “time bomb”.
Mr Hunt said: “Dementia is one of the biggest challenges we face as a nation.
“This report and map will help drive up standards of dementia care across the country by showing what excellent care looks like, and challenging the rest to become like the best.”
Leading dementia charity, the Alzheimer’s Society, blasted the diagnosis rates in West Norfolk and said it was time for the borough to wake up and address the issue.
Paul Dunnery, the charity’s regional operations manager, said: “It is shocking that more than two-thirds of people in West Norfolk are being kept in the dark without a diagnosis.
“A diagnosis opens the door to an invaluable helping hand that can enable people with dementia to live a good quality of life and plan for the future.”
Dr Sue Crossman, chief officer for the West Norfolk CCG, said: “Dementia care is one of West Norfolk CCG’s highest priorities and a lot of energy is being focused on understanding and addressing the needs of this group.
“Following a very successful conference in April, led by carers and users of the service, a pathway development programme was initiated. The results of this work were presented at a second conference in September and the pathway continues to evolve.
“Dementia diagnosis statistics are being monitored closely by the CCG, as well as the access that newly- diagnosed patients have to support.
“The CCG is providing training for healthcare, social and informal carers at the beginning of December, with the goal of raising awareness and improving confidence and competence in caring for people living with dementia.”
The Department of Health’s dementia diagnosis rate map can be viewed at: http://dementiachallenge.dh.gov.uk/map