Almost three quarters of over-75s in South Tyneside have not received vital hospital tests for dementia - as the borough braces itself for a hurge surge in the number of sufferers.
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust has the lowest screening rates in the country, with just 28% of eligible pensioners being tested in June, according to new figures released by NHS England.
The trust breached guidelines to screen up 90% of older emergency patients - despite Prime Minister David Cameron calling dementia research a ‘personal priority’ and the fact that one in 80 people in the borough are already battling the condition.
Shock statistics released by leading charity The Alzheimer’s Society last year revealed that 2,128 people - around one in 80 - were suffering from the degenerative brain disease in South Tyneside.
South Tyneside Council warned at the time that there will be a 50 per cent rise in the number of residents suffering from dementia across all ages by 2030 and a 138 per cent increase among people over 90.
One in five hospitals across the UK are not meeting the 90 per cent target set by the Government, with South Tyneside District Hospital’s screening figures for the month of June standing 11 per cent lower than any other hospital.
The next lowest figures were recorded at Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (39%), Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (43%) and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust (49%).
The Alzheimer’s Society has called for “urgent” action at hospitals falling short of the official benchmark.
South Tyneside NHS Foundation trust says it is ‘disappointed’ by the figures and has vowed to implemement an action plan to improve its performance.
George McNamara, the Alzheimer’s Society’s head of policy, said: “Roughly a third of people living with dementia in England still do not receive a diagnosis, meaning that they are not accessing any of the services that they need.
“Good progress is being made in many hospitals, but there is still too much variation across the UK and this must be urgently addressed.”
The nationwide screening programme for dementia was launched in 2013 amid fears that one in three over-65s is now being struck down by the degenerative brain disease.
All patients aged 75 and over are expected to be given long-established memory and mental capacity tests, with those identified as at risk referred to a psychiatrist further checks.
The Prime Minister described the move as a “personal priority” as he announced a doubling of research funding to more than £66 million a year.
However, doctors criticised plans to extend testing to community services, warning older patients would be scared off visiting their GP for fear of being diagnosed with early signs of the condition.
The statistics showed that, across England, the proportion of over-75s identified for assessment in June was 90.9%, up slightly from 90.3% in May.
However, only 80.1% of hospital trusts (113) identified at least 90% of cases - two fewer than in the previous month.
Bob Brown, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s Executive Director, Nursing and Patient Safety, said: ““Working with people who have dementia and their carers is a very high priority for us and we have an excellent track record of caring for older people. Last year, one of the wards at South Tyneside District Hospital became the first in the North East and one of only 17 in the country to be awarded the Elder Friendly Quality Mark for its support for older people and we are currently building a state-of-the-art health and social care hub on the hospital site for older people, particularly those with dementia, which will open next year.
“We also recently signed up to the newly-established Dementia Action Alliance in South Tyneside, which aims to help transform the quality of life of local people with dementia and their carers. In addition, we have received positive feedback from carers and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups about the dementia carer events, which we held last year in South Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland, and we are planning more in the future.
“While we are disappointed at these latest figures, we already have an action plan underway to improve our performance and, in addition to this, early next year we will publish a new dementia strategy to ensure we are able to offer the very best service to local people.”
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “There are slight variations month on month but this data shows that 80% of trusts are hitting what is actually quite a challenging 90% target.
“Recognising and assessing symptoms of possible dementia in hospitals is very good and we will continue to work hard with them on this important work.”
THE BOTTOM TEN:
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust (28 per cent)
Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (39 per cent)
Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (43 per cent)
North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust (49 per cent)
Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust (51 per cent)
Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (52 per cent)
South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (52 per cent)
Taunton & Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (63 per cent)
Kingston Hospital NHS Trust (71 per cent)
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (73 per cent)