The Alzheimer’s Society says that the NHS should offer checks for dementia when people reach 75.
The charity argues that fewer than half of those with the condition get a diagnosis, so many miss out on the care and support they need.
However the UK National Screening Committee, which advises the NHS, has said tests and treatments need to improve first. In addition, the British Medical Association says carrying out the checks would mean there is less time for other services.
Professor Clive Ballard, the charity’s director of research, says getting a diagnosis is fundamental to ensuring the right treatment, support and care.
“Really the only way we’re going to improve identification is through effective screening, and probably the right time to do that screening is over the age of 75 once dementia starts to become more common.”
He is proposing that people be offered a cognitive test at the GP surgery, with questions on time, date, place, memory and understanding. This would be backed up by an interview with a relative or carer.
Where dementia is suspected patients would be referred to a specialist for a full clinical assessment. If they were then diagnosed with dementia, there may be drug treatment and changes in lifestyle that could help delay deterioration, and would allow an opportunity to plan ahead, he argues.