Nearly half a million people aged 65 and over had a diagnosis of dementia last month, according to NHS England, which said it was the highest monthly number on record.
New data published this week has revealed that in the past year alone, the number of recorded cases of dementia has increased by more than 15,000.
“It’s good news that more people are having their condition identified and their treatment delivered”
The latest figures show a “record high” of 453, 881 dementia diagnoses in May – an increase of around 30,000 monthly diagnoses since June 2016, noted NHS England.
In addition, the data shows that the number of older people diagnosed with dementia has increased by 7% in the past three years.
NHS leading dementia expert, Alistair Burns, has described the figures as “good news”, saying it meant that more people would be getting the treatment they needed as a result of being diagnosed.
Mr Burns, who is the NHS national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health, said: “Spotting dementia in a timely way means people get the care they need, when they need it, so it’s good news that more people are having their condition identified and their treatment delivered.
“As the population ages, the NHS is having to run to keep up as dementia becomes a challenge for more and more families, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a blueprint for older people’s care and makes early diagnosis and treatment for major health problems a top priority,” he added.
“However, the figures do not hide the fact that our health and social care systems are not supporting families with dementia enough”
NHS England highlighted that dementia was a “key priority” for the health service and, through its long-term plan, was committed to making this the best country in the world for dementia care.
The government arms’-length body noted that its long-term plan puts in place the “building blocks” for an effective and compassionate older people’s health service, with care and treatment joined-up between different services and located close to people’s homes and families.
Dementia workers will be among the “army of new staff” being recruited to work with GPs, as part of the long-term plan, NHS England noted.
However, the charity Dementia UK said more needs to be done to support family with dementia, noting the importance of specialist dementia admiral nurses, who they believe are “ideally placed” to do so.
Chief executive and chief admiral nurse at the charity, Dr Hilda Hayo, said: “These figures highlight a greater awareness among families around dementia as well as the symptoms to look out for.”
Dr Hayo noted that the symptoms, which can include a loss of communication and memories, can cause “intense pressures” on families.
“With more families getting diagnosed, more are able to access the care and support they desperately need, which is a promising development,” she said.
“However, the figures do not hide the fact that our health and social care systems are not supporting families with dementia enough,” she warned.
“We need a co-ordinated approach, where health and social care professionals have the right knowledge to support families at varying stages of dementia. Specialist dementia Admiral Nurses are ideally placed to provide this,” she added.