MPs in call to improve services for Alzheimer's
ALZHEIMER'S experts in Wales say the public and medics need to be more aware of the condition if sufferers are to get the best treatment.
Wales has the lowest rate of diagnosis for the devastating illness in the UK, according to a new Parliamentary report.
MPs are calling for services to be improved, and for early diagnosis to be made a priority.
Sue Phelps, from the Alzheimer's Society Wales, said there were more than 27,000 people in the country who had the condition but were undiagnosed.
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She said an early diagnosis was vital so people could plan for their future and manage the condition.
She said: "There are a whole range of reasons for diagnosis rates being so low.
"These include, lack of public understanding about dementia, people's reluctance to see their GPs, lack of GP awareness of dementia, and the variability of memory services across Wales.
"A timely dementia diagnosis is so important as it gives people greater control over their lives and allows them to plan for the future and manage their condition more effectively.
"It opens the door to treatments which can help people to recognise their loved ones or play with their grandchildren for longer. It also offers access to support services and information."
The MPs' report says Wales has the lowest dementia diagnosis rate in the UK at 37 per cent, compared to 41 per cent in England, 62 per cent in Northern Ireland and 65 per cent in Scotland.
They found that waiting times for memory services — a key component of the diagnosis process — varied around the UK from just a few weeks to more than a year.
The Parliamentarians made a number of recommendations for Wales, including the NHS looking at routinely questioning people aged over 65 and others at high risk of dementia; making better use of diagnosis data to monitor progress in Wales; and the Welsh Government committing to providing on-going funding for information packs for sufferers following their diagnosis.
A Cardiff Bay spokesman said Health Minister Lesley Griffiths would consider the report's findings before responding.
The Welsh Government has its own strategy for tackling the issue — Dementia Vision for Wales — which was published last year.
Baroness Sally Greengross, chairwoman of the cross-party Parliamentary group that produced the Alzheimer's report, said: "Improving diagnosis rates will mean more people with dementia being able to access support and treatment that can help them and their family achieve the best possible quality of life."