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Solihull’s first Dementia Summit agrees way forward to improve timely diagnosis

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Senior clinical and professional leads in dementia from the NHS, Solihull Council and the voluntary sector met last week to explore how health and care organisations can work together to improve the borough's dementia diagnosis rates.

It is estimated that 3,364 people are living with dementia in Solihull, but a significant number of these have not had a formal diagnosis. Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group's latest dementia diagnosis rate is 51.3%, compared to 53.5% for England, and the national ambition is to improve this to 67% by 2015. The borough's current diagnosis rate means there is a gap of just over 500 people who could benefit from access to support by way of a dementia diagnosis.

Delegates at Solihull's first Dementia Summit, held on Thursday 20th November at Solihull CCG offices in Friars Gate, heard from Professor Alistair Burns, National Clinical Lead for Dementia Services at NHS England. According to Professor Burns, dementia has taken over from cancer as the most feared illness for people over 50, not just in terms of living with the condition but also looking after someone with dementia.

"There has been a real shift in the last five years," said Professor Burns, "and people are now interested in talking about dementia. We need to look at timely diagnosis rather than early diagnosis, ie when it is right for the person and their family, and the support that is available to people after diagnosis." He also challenged delegates to think about who can diagnose the condition. "We need to give GPs the confidence to know they can diagnose dementia, if they feel able to and have the right support."

Dr Patrick Brooke, Accountable Officer for Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) commented: “Timely diagnosis is vital.  We want to have a conversation with the person being diagnosed so they are better able to be involved in the planning of their own future care.  At the moment we spend a lot of time thinking about the latter stages of dementia, but it’s support at the early stages which makes the big difference to people’s lives.”

Dr Brooke continued: "This Dementia Summit is just the start of the conversation. We have identified our top 3 priorities: reducing stigma and raising awareness of the condition, ensuring there is a clear pathway to deliver care and support and developing our workforce skills and competencies, particularly in primary care. With more than 30 delegates from the CCG, Solihull Council, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and Alzheimer's Society, I am confident that we can work together to deliver better lives for people living with dementia."

If you, or a family member, have concerns about dementia, please speak to your GP. To find out more about the support available to people living with dementia, visit Alzheimer's Society website at www.alzheimers.org.uk