Dementia diagnosis waits ‘unacceptable’

The director of the Alzheimer’s Society in the north has spoken of the catastrophic effect the pandemic has had on dementia diagnoses as figures show hundreds of people are waiting for an appointment in the Western Trust.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 10:54 am

Bernadine McCrory said people are waiting far too long for clinical assessments locally.

She was speaking as the Health Minister Robin Swann revealed that at the end of August 2021 there were 487 active waits for a dementia diagnosis appointment in the Western Trust.

According to departmental figures 356 people were waiting for longer than the ministerial target of nine weeks.

Bernadine McCrory with Sarah Travers at a memory walk in Derry a number of years ago.

Ms. McCrory said this was not acceptable.

“The pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on dementia diagnosis.

“It is unacceptable that 356 people in the Western Trust have been waiting over the Ministerial target of nine weeks for a diagnosis appointment.

“This number has increased drastically in the last year. In February 2020 there were 169 people in the Western Trust waiting over nine weeks for an appointment and by February 2021 this figure had jumped to 340 and unfortunately things are not improving,” she told the ‘Journal.’

The Western Trust has the second highest number of people waiting for more than nine weeks in the north after the South Eastern Trust (944) but it is a problem right across the north, said Ms. McCrory.

“Sadly this situation is reflected across Northern Ireland where there are now 1,834 people waiting over nine weeks for a diagnosis appointment.

“Dementia is a progressive condition and a swift diagnosis will enable the person affected and their family to access extremely important services and information at the earliest possible time.

“With this information, the person can make informed choices about how they wish to live their lives and have those choices recorded before their communication skills deplete.

“It is totally unsatisfactory to have people with dementia waiting months on end for a diagnosis. Ideally, we would like people to be seen within three weeks.

“Many of the people we talk to tell us the diagnosis process is lengthy and difficult, and the healthcare system hard to navigate.

“Poor diagnosis rates mean more people relying on emergency care – which costs the health system more.

“We need a system that gives every person with dementia the timely support they deserve and so desperately need,” she said.

The ‘Journal’ asked the Western Health & Social Care Trust for a response.