Dementia support ‘shameful’ in NHS Lothian

Lothian's dementia support record has been described as 'shameful'. Pic: John Devlin
Lothian's dementia support record has been described as 'shameful'. Pic: John Devlin
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HUNDREDS of people in the Lothians diagnosed with dementia are not receiving the support they are supposed to get.

Fewer than half those found to have dementia were referred for support and only 56 per cent of those actually received the 12-month package of help – a far lower proportion than any other part of the country. Critics said the situation was “shameful” and “inexcusable”.

Scottish Government policy says: “People newly diagnosed with dementia will be offered a minimum of one year’s post-diagnostic support, coordinated by a named link worker.”

But figures published yesterday showed that of 2512 people in Lothian diagnosed with the disease in 2016/17 only 1119 or 44.5 per cent were referred for support and only 622 of them received it.

Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “These figures are deeply worrying and show that hundreds of people every year in Lothian, who are 
diagnosed with dementia, are not being provided with the support they need.

“Post Diagnostic Services are crucial in supporting people and their families to make the adjustments they need for the huge challenge of living with dementia.

“The Scottish Government says that everyone diagnosed with dementia should receive Post Diagnostic Services for 12 months after being diagnosed.

“In Lothian SNP ministers are nowhere near their target of everyone diagnosed with dementia receiving PDS, with only 622 patients receiving the service our of an estimated 2512 diagnosed with dementia over the year.”

Across the country, 46.7 per cent of patients were referred to specialist services and 83.9 per cent of those received it.

It meant that of the 17,496 people newly diagnosed with dementia in 2016/17, only 6830 received the post-diagnostic support they were promised.

Compared with the 622 out of 2512 diagnosed patients in Lothian who received the support package, the figure in Greater Glasgow and Clyde was 1617 out of 3429; in Tayside 859 out 1567; and in Grampian 307 out of 1798.

Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan said: “These figures are inexcusable. Not only have 61 per cent of people newly diagnosed with dementia gone without the promised care, but less than half of the total were actually referred in the first place. This is clearly not good enough and is a staggering disservice to those living with dementia, their carers and family.

As the Scottish population ages at a significant rate, and those living with dementia predicted to increase by 50 per cent over the next 20 years, they must do better and quickly.”

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “These figures are utterly shameful.

“Our health service has to adapt to the challenges of the future, and more and more people are being diagnosed with dementia each year. The SNP has been in charge for more than a decade. They must urgently ensure people get the support they need.”

Professor Alex McMahon, nurse director at NHS Lothian, said: “Every person with a diagnosis of dementia in Scotland is entitled to post-diagnostic support and our teams in Lothian are committed to working closely with patients, their families and carers to help ensure they receive the maximum benefit.

“Our teams work with and prepare patients for the years ahead post diagnosis by helping to establish peer support, establish and maintain social networks, help plan future care, foster greater understanding of the illness and management of symptoms.

“Very often, however, we find patients do not want to begin their support right away and choose to defer it until they are ready to begin.

“This can be because of the need for individuals to process the news of the diagnosis and come to terms with this. For some people this may be up to a year after the initial diagnosis. Others may already be in hospital or receiving care in another setting.”