50,000 dementia cases were missed due to the coronavirus shutdown, according to a new report.
According to newspaper accounts, up to 50,000 dementia cases were missed during the lockdown because referrals to memory clinics had all but ceased at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Daily Mail, the backlog could put even more on on already overburdened hospitals, with one out of every ten new dementia sufferers going misdiagnosed.
They warned that if Covid-19 limitations are reinstated in the autumn or winter, even more instances will be missed.
The information was released by Professor Alistair Burns, national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health at NHS England and NHS Improvement.
He claims that over 475,000 people in England are registered with their GP as dementia patients, accounting for roughly two-thirds of all dementia patients.
However, since the beginning of the pandemic, the figure has dropped to as low as 427,000.
In March 2020, clinicians “did as they were told” and ceased referring patients for dementia examinations, according to Prof Burns. Referrals began to pick up again last summer, but dropped off again during the second lockdown.
“There were 40,000 to 50,000 people who should have been on the dementia register but weren’t,” he said. That’s the kind of figure we’re discussing.
“We often hear about the impact of lockdown on cancer and stroke [diagnosis rates], and that is correct, but there is also an impact on dementia.”
Prof Burns, speaking at the Dementias 2021 conference in London in his own role, said dementia sufferers had “disproportionately lost out” during the epidemic because they were isolated from family, friends, and communities.
According to NHS data, the dementia diagnosis rate in England fell steadily from March 2020 to March 2021, before progressively increasing this spring.
However, in the first several months of 2021, the number assessed was substantially lower than before the pandemic.
In the six months leading up to April 2021, GPs performed 50% fewer dementia exams and provided 33% fewer referrals to memory clinics than they did in the six months leading up to March 2019.
“Thousands of people with dementia have remained in the dark about their disease, unable to seek help that is most beneficial the sooner you get it,” said James White of the Alzheimer’s Society.
Dementia UK’s Dr Hilda Hayo said the organisation had received a flood of calls. “The summary has come to an end.”