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Hundreds of West Norfolk people may have dementia without being diagnosed

Revealed: the undiagnosed dementia problem in Fenland (6176634)
Revealed: the undiagnosed dementia problem in Fenland (6176634)

About 1,000 older people in West Norfolk may be living with undiagnosed dementia, according to estimates by the NHS.

Figures collected by GPs show there are 1,450 people over 65 in the borough who have been diagnosed with some form of dementia.

But estimates by the NHS, based on age and gender profiling of patients, suggest the real figure may be 2,446.

That means an estimated 996 pensioners living with a debilitating illness that has not been formally recorded by their doctor.

The figures come after the launch of a new campaign to make Lynn a Dementia Friendly town. An initial meeting is due to take place next month.

The latest data, for November, shows that the diagnosis rate for the whole of England is 68.2 per cent. But West Norfolk is below the national figure with a diagnosis rate of 59.3 per cent.

Sally Copley, Alzheimer’s Society’s director of policy campaigns and partnerships, said: “The essential first step to the care and support everyone should have a right to is a diagnosis.

“People tell us our support is a lifeline, but we cannot reach them if we do not know who they are.

“In areas with low diagnosis rates the Government has to work with the NHS to find out what’s going on.”

The Royal College of General Practitioners said that doctors realised the importance of spotting the signs of dementia but, in some circumstances, an early formal diagnosis was not in the best interests of the patient.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the RCGP, said: “We recognise that timely diagnosis can be helpful in that it provides an opportunity for some patients to get their affairs in order and make long-term plans for their care.

“But pressuring patients to seek early advice and a diagnostic label, especially for short-time memory lapses, can create considerable worry for both them and their loved ones, especially when follow-on services and treatment options are limited.”

Dementia can affect people at any age and across England 465,000 people have been diagnosed. It peaks for men in their early 80s when a quarter suffer from it and in the late 80s for women, when 27 per cent are diagnosed with the condition.

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