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Dementia patients facing a long wait in Swindon
5:38pm Wednesday 16th January 2013 in News
DEMENTIA sufferers in Wiltshire and Swindon are being made to wait nine months before being seen at a memory clinic, despite experts recommending a maximum wait of six weeks.
The figures have been released by the Alzheimer’s Society, which this week revealed that nearly 400,000 dementia sufferers in Britain have never been given a formal diagnosis.
In Swindon, 44 per cent of people with dementia are diagnosed, with the total in 2012 standing at 2,232 patients, with 1,246 undiagnosed.
In 2021, the number of those with dementia in Swindon is set to rise to 2,977, while those that are undiagnosed will stand at 1,667.
In Wiltshire, there are 6,737 people with dementia, while 4,407 are undiagnosed.
The charity also surveyed memory clinics in the country and found that the average waiting time for an appointment is 32.5 working days, which is over the four to six weeks as recommended by Memory Service National Accreditation Programme.
Some memory clinics reported longer waiting times of up to nine months, including Wiltshire and Swindon.
A spokesperson for NHS Swindon said work is being carried out to improve waiting times.
“Following recent initiatives put in place to raise awareness of the symptoms of dementia, Swindon has recently recorded a higher than national average rate of diagnosis of patients with dementia.
“As a result, the number of patients referred to the care of the memory clinics has increased.
“This means some patients are asked to wait longer for their appointment, and we are currently working to address these waiting times.”
At the Great Western Hospital, work is taking place to increase early diagnosis rates following the national campaign A Day to Remember, which was launched by the Department of Health with support from the Alzheimer’s Society.
The campaign encourages 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.
At the GWH, an appeal was recently launched for more staff to become Dementia Champions, who will become experts on the syndrome and be able to offer advice and support to others.
Changes have also been made on wards, including discreet systems to make sure all staff are aware which patients have dementia and may need special support, as well as adaptations to bathrooms to make them more accessible and easy to use.
Wendy Johnson, senior sister for coronary care and dementia champion, said: “Often people with dementia can have problems with height or seeing things properly – they may see a step when there isn’t actually a step there, so we have made adaptations to reduce the risk of falls.
“We have also installed more clocks on wards as dementia patients often have difficulty in distinguishing between day and night.”
In mid-February, the GWH will be taking part in a special peer review with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which will see a group of dementia experts visit the GWH to review the care and support being provided for dementia patients and their carers.