We want to ensure that every person in the UK with dementia can receive an early and accurate diagnosis. This is crucial for people to be able to take part in research and access the right care and treatment for them.
It is vitally important that people are diagnosed early and accurately because it allows them to access the care and treatment they need, and the opportunity to participate in clinical trials and research studies.
And with potential new life-changing treatments not that far away, we must be ready for people with dementia to receive them by ensuring that they are diagnosed early and accurately.
But there are significant challenges in providing a diagnosis for people who need one. Only two thirds of people thought to be living with dementia currently get diagnosed. Access to diagnostic tools and infrastructure, such as brain scanning facilities, is limited and varies across the country, leading to regional inequalities.
These are long-standing issues that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they must be addressed urgently. Public Health England estimated the pandemic has resulted in a backlog of around 35,000 people in England who didn’t get a diagnosis as the dementia diagnosis rate dropped from 67% at the start of 2020 to 62% by February 2022.
To help address these challenges, we’re working closely with government and other organisations to improve how dementia diagnosis happens now, understand how breakthroughs in research can transform the way dementia is diagnosed, and prepare for the arrival of new life-changing treatments.
Our work in this area includes:
- Raising awareness of why an early and accurate diagnosis matters through our work in the media and with policymakers.
- Emphasising the urgent need to ensure the health system is ready to deliver new treatments as soon as they become available. We explored this in our reports Are we ready to deliver disease-modifying treatments? and The Right to Know: Accurate and Earlier Diagnosis of Dementia.
- Understanding public attitudes to an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Our report, Detecting and Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, looked at people’s views on what an early diagnosis might mean to them, and the ways the health service can better support people to receive an early diagnosis.
- Partnering with researchers, clinicians and others to explore potential new avenues to ensure the NHS is ready for the arrival of new treatments.
- Making the case for more investment in diagnostic infrastructure in the NHS to improve access to scanning equipment and other diagnostic tools. This would increase the number of people diagnosed with dementia and reduce the backlog caused by the pandemic.
- Working with researchers, scientists and academics to explore new technologies that could lead to earlier and more accurate diagnosis of the diseases that cause dementia. This includes using wearable technologies to collect data on a range of potential indicators for dementia (e.g. the EDoN initiative) and exploring how blood-based biomarkers could be used at scale.
- Contributing to the government’s Dementia Strategy, including making the case for improved dementia diagnosis.
People with dementia are at risk of missing out on new treatments if the UK does not improve how it hosts clinical trials, according to a new report from Alzheimer’s Research UK.
17 December 2021
A key committee for the European Medicines Agency has recommended refusing an application by the pharmaceutical company Biogen for a licence for the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab.
22 February 2021
Alzheimer’s Research UK warns the drop in the number of people receiving a diagnosis for dementia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is ‘extremely concerning’.