IN the second of a series of special articles ahead of Dementia Action Week, Courant reporter Georgia Langdon reveals the number of dementia diagnoses missed because of coronavirus.

JUST three in five people suspected of living with dementia in Northumberland were given a formal diagnosis last year.

NHS England guidance gives a target for two-thirds of people suspected of having dementia to be officially diagnosed with the condition.

But data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows just 60.7 per cent of people thought to have dementia in the NHS Northumberland CCG area were formally diagnosed in 2021 – based on an indicator that predicts the expected number of dementia cases in people aged 65 and over.

Nationally, 61.6 per cent of predicted dementia cases were formally diagnosed last year – the lowest rate in five years of available data and down from 67.4 per cent in 2020.

Zena Aldridge, of Dementia UK, said a lack of funding has led to patchy diagnosis rates and that Covid-19 had an even greater impact, with face-to-face GP appointments reduced and memory assessment services scaled back or closed.

She added: “Although there is no cure for dementia, receiving a diagnosis early on enables the person to plan for their future and seek appropriate support.”

Across England, 415,778 people were formally diagnosed with dementia in 2021, down from 454,599 the year before. In Northumberland, the total also fell, from 3,297 in 2020 to 3,016 last year.

Gavin Terry, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Society, added: “Covid has had a devastating impact on people affected by dementia and we estimate there are around 35,000 people living with dementia, who would have been diagnosed had the pandemic not happened.”

The Department for Health and Social Care allocated £17 million in funding to NHS England and Improvement last year to address falling dementia diagnosis rates and provide greater pre and post-diagnostic support.