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Over half a million dementia cases could go undiagnosed by 2040, study predicts

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Currently, an estimated 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, with 315,000 undiagnosed cases

As the population continues to age, the number of dementia cases in the UK could increase to rise to 1.5 million by 2040, a new study has predicted.

The study report from Future Health also cautioned that over half a million people with dementia could remain undiagnosed by 2040, representing an increase of nearly a quarter of a million compared to the current figure, if there is “no progress in improving diagnosis rates.”

At present, approximately 850,000 individuals in the UK are living with dementia, with an estimated 315,000 cases going undiagnosed.

Sponsored by Lilly, the study also highlighted significant variations in diagnosis rates across the four nations.  Despite improvements, England’s dementia diagnosis rate stands at 64.6 per cent, falling short of the two-thirds target.

Richard Sloggett, programme director at the Future Health Research Centre and report author said: “Progress is being made on increasing dementia diagnosis rates, but this research shows that business as usual will not deliver what patients need.”

“The expected significant increase in dementia cases means that without investment in increased diagnostic capacity and capability more and more people will have undiagnosed dementia and be unable to access the treatment and care that they need.

“The publication of system readiness plans for new treatments coupled with new diagnosis targets backed up with investment in diagnostics and incentives should be a priority for each government of the four UK nations,” he added.

The research explored three different scenarios for the trajectory of dementia diagnosis rates up to 2040.

If the diagnosis rates in 2040 were to remain unchanged from present levels across all four UK nations, it’s projected that over 565,000 individuals – nearly a quarter of a million more than today – would have dementia without a diagnosis.

If all UK nations were to achieve the two-thirds target set in England, there would be a smaller but still significant increase of 175,000 undiagnosed cases, bringing the total to 490,000 cases.

Only when all four nations significantly boost diagnosis rates to 80 per cent, there would be a decrease in the overall number of undiagnosed individuals with dementia by 2040. However, even in this scenario, nearly 300,000 cases of undiagnosed dementia would persist, the study predicted.

To tackle low diagnosis rates, the report suggested setting of new, more ambitious dementia diagnosis targets, along with the introduction of financial incentives to support their delivery.

Laura Steele, president and general manager of Lilly UK, also exphasised the need to improve diagnostic capabilities to “tackle inequalities in diagnosis rates and ensure people can access the right care and support.”

The study underscored the importance of timely and accurate diagnosis to enable dementia patients to access the care and support they need, as well as gain benefit from the potential arrival of new treatments.

 

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