A new campaign which aims to increase early diagnosis rates for dementia in the East of England by tackling the public’s fears of talking about the condition, has been launched.

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The A Day to Remember campaign by the Department of Health is being backed by Sir Michael Parkinson, Fiona Phillips and Gordon Banks, who are all adding their support by asking the public not to delay talking about dementia.

Part of the prime minister’s Challenge on Dementia, the campaign will encourage people to have that first ‘difficult conversation’ with a friend or family member when they spot the signs and symptoms of dementia, and encourage them to visit their GP.

Dementia expert Dr Chris Fox, of Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia (UEA), is engaged in current research on dementia diagnosis both in the UK and internationally and believes dementia is widely under-diagnosed, with the latest research reporting between 40pc and 80pc of cases being missed - and therefore untreated. He said: “Earlier diagnosis allows better planning of future needs of patients and families, in addition to access to early state interventions such as cognitive stimulation treatment and emerging experimental pharmaceutical interventions. Problems with diagnosis which could be improved include staff training, better tools and enhanced use of technology platforms.”

The research is backed up by a recent Department of Health survey which showed that half of people (50pc) in the East of England say they would find it hard to talk about dementia to a friend or family member they thought might have it and that nearly two-thirds (64pc) of people would not be confident telling the difference between the signs of dementia and the normal signs of ageing.

The three-month national campaign, launched on World Alzheimer’s Day, will raise awareness of the condition, what initial signs and symptoms look like and how to seek help.

Care and support minister Norman Lamb, who is also the MP for North Norfolk, said: “Dementia is one of biggest challenges we are facing, but while there remains no cure early diagnosis can help people take control of their condition and plan for the future.

“This campaign sends a clear and important message – if you spot signs or symptoms in your loved ones then have that difficult conversation because diagnosis makes a difference.”

To help family members and others to start talking about the condition with their loved ones, the Alzheimer’s Society, which is backing the campaign, has issued advice on how to have difficult conversations at www.alzheimers.org.uk/toptips

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