People with dementia should receive a diagnosis and begin treatment within 6 weeks of referral.
There are also a growing number of treatments available that may slow the progression of the disease. That is why it’s so important that people don’t have to wait more than 6 weeks between their referral to a memory assessment service and receiving a diagnosis and developing and agreeing a care plan. Not only do delays add considerable costs to the NHS, waiting months for a diagnosis is unacceptable and detrimental to the long-term mental health of people living with dementia, and for their families and carers. We would not tolerate such a long wait for a cancer diagnosis, for example.
If you are diagnosed with dementia the Memory Assessment Service staff will explore with you if you want to know your diagnosis. They will offer you the opportunity to receive a letter with the results of your assessment and diagnosis detailed on it, as well as what the next steps would be. The Memory Assessment Service will offer you time to talk through your understanding of your diagnosis, what it means to you and who you are happy to share this diagnosis with, including your family members or others.
For extra information, evidence and best practice please scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Cerebral Function Unit for Greater Manchester
MSNAP Memory Assessment Service Standards
Young onset Dementia: Decision-making guide for GPs
Furthermore, the guidance published by the British Psychological Society for the early stages of the dementia care pathway explains that when adequate support is provided, this not only improves quality of life, but also enables people to make choices about their lives, reduces stress for their families, and means that people are less likely to require long term residential or hospital care.
Evidence suggests that post-diagnostic support provides an opportunity for both practitioners and people with dementia and their carers to work together and set realisable goals for care and support in the early stages of the disease. People value individualised information, delivered as part of a complex multi-component programme of support.
Royal College of Psychiatrists (2020) MSNAP Standards for Memory Services: "The diagnosis is given within the locally specified target timeframe, unless any further assessments of investigations are required, or other circumstances cause delay. Reasons for delay are recorded and monitored. Guidance: In England, the requirement is within 6 weeks of referral."
Clinical Review, Dementia: timely diagnosis and early intervention: "In the absence of a cure, a professional belief that nothing can be done has contributed to delays in diagnosis. However, increasing evidence showing that dementia may be preventable has led to an international focus on earlier diagnosis and intervention. This review aims to summarise current evidence and best practice in the diagnosis and early intervention in dementia care."
Best Practice Resources
For more information on the importance of spotting the early signs of dementia, please click here.
Royal College of Psychiatrists, Young-onset dementia in mental health services: "This report recognises that a person with young-onset dementia (YOD) and their family will often have complex diagnostic, management and personal needs and it is important that these needs are met in a timely and effective way."