Sharp rise in dementia diagnosis rates across Norfolk

Norfolk's first Admiral Nurse, Zena Aldridge. Picture: Denise Bradley

Norfolk's first Admiral Nurse, Zena Aldridge. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

A sharp rise in dementia diagnosis rates in Norfolk has prompted a leading charity to call for more support for 'phenomenal' family carers.

New NHS figures have showed the number of people in Norfolk and Waveney receiving a dementia diagnosis has increased by as much as 73 per cent since 2014.

A drive to increase diagnosis rates as well as an increasingly ageing population are believed to be behind the increase in figures.

Dementia care costs the UK nearly £35bn - with two thirds of that bill footed by families.

Zena Aldridge, Norfolk's first Admiral Nurse, said: "I think it is really positive that more people are being diagnosed, but it is only a positive if they are able to access the specific support that they require.

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"They [carers] are phenomenal. If they were to stop our whole health and care system would collapse and we wouldn't be able to cope."

Admiral Nurses have been providing specialist care for those living with the disease and their family in Norfolk since 2012.

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This week, it was confirmed funding for the service had been agreed in Norfolk by the CCG to 2021.

The county has seven nurses and a support team that are split across Norwich, North Norfolk and South Norfolk, working with families from diagnosis to end of life care and bereavement.

Dementia UK's Dr Karen Harrison Dening said there was a postcode lottery to what care and support people may receive.

She said: "Care at the moment is very hit or miss.

"If you developed cancer in later life, the NHS would step in. Alzheimer's (one type of dementia) and dementia is a brain disease, but the NHS doesn't provide the same level of care and treatment as for other diseases and conditions."

Between October 2017 and July 2019 the Admiral Nurse team had 1,427 referrals from GPs across Norwich, North Norfolk and South Norfolk and supported 2,500 people including carers, families and those living with the disease.

Norfolk and Waveney's five Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) says it is focussing on a number of approaches to deliver dementia diagnosis and support closer to home.

The CCG's dementia lead urged families to speak to their GP if they were concerned as there were benefits to getting a timely diagnosis.

Dr Liz Waddy, GP and dementia lead for Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership, said: "Getting a dementia diagnosis means you can start treatment to slow its progress down and access support for you and your family.

"Getting a diagnosis gives you and your family the best chance to prepare and plan for the future."

The new NHS data showed in some parts of the UK the number of people diagnosed with dementia has more than doubled in five years.

Norwich CCG has the highest increase over the five year period from 1,092 people on the dementia register in 2014 to 1,886 in 2019 - a rise of 73 per cent.

South Norfolk CCG increased by 61 per cent as diagnosis rates increased from 1,489 to 2,390.

West Norfolk CCG was 53 per cent, North Norfolk 33 per cent and Great Yarmouth and Waveney saw a 26 per cent increase.

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