Research at the University of Exeter designed to help identify patients with dementia and reduce the pressure on health services has received a generous boost of £120,000 from the Halpin Trust.
The research aims to help GPs make a swifter and more accurate decisions around diagnosis, meaning those who are in greatest need can be progressed more swiftly.
Timely diagnosis is key to ensuring people with dementia get the right treatment and support. Although more than 800,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with dementia, many more are never diagnosed, or are diagnosed too late in the progression of the condition for any action to be effective.
Meanwhile, health services see large numbers of people who are concerned they may have dementia, but do not, meaning waiting times are rapidly increasing. Currently only four in ten people who attend Devon Memory Service clinics receive a dementia diagnosis.
Dr David Llewellyn and his team from the University of Exeter are working with Devon Partnership NHS Trust to improve dementia diagnosis. They have developed a clinical decision support system called DECODE to help identify which patients are most likely to benefit from a full dementia assessment. It will help GPs with the difficult task of assessing which patients should go on to memory clinics within the short consultations available to them.
This system could potentially increase the number of people with dementia who could be diagnosed within a two-year period by 21%. At the same time, a large proportion of cognitively healthy people could be picked up by the DECODE triage system; and these assessments could be reduced by up to 400%.
Dr Laura Hill, Associate Clinical Director for the Devon Memory Service, who is involved in the study, said: "Getting a timely diagnosis of dementia is crucial to being able to make a difference for people. It's not easy living with dementia but it is possible to live well with the right support and getting the diagnosis is the first step on this journey. It is also essential that we can reassure people who are experiencing normal age-related changes that they do not have dementia as early as possible. This research will support primary and secondary care services to achieve this goal."