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Dementia patients slipping through the net

Thousands of people with dementia are missing out on care because their conditions are going undiagnosed by GPs, the Department of Health warns today.

The department is planning the first national dementia strategy aimed at encouraging older people to present earlier and to improve GPs' skills in recognising dementia cases.

It says many patients are not diagnosed because they are ashamed to present at surgeries, and when diagnoses are made it is often too late for patients to make choices about their care.

Many older people and their families attribute symptoms to ‘old age' and do not seek GP help for dementia.

But there are also cases of people in their 30s and 40s with dementia who slip through the net because GPs confuse their symptoms with those of depression.

Only a third of people with dementia receive a formal diagnosis at any time in their illness, the department added.

And the numbers of people with dementia is expected to rise sharply in the coming years as the proportion of older people in the population rises.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis said: ‘The current system is failing too many dementia sufferers and their carers. We need to minimise the shame and fear associated with dementia so that people and their relatives feel able to seek support at the earliest possible stage in the knowledge that they will get expert help and be treated with dignity and respect.'

The department wants GPs to develop closer links with community mental health and social services to help patients with dementia.

"The current system is failing too many dementia sufferers and their carers." Ivan Lewis, Care Services minister

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