LESS than half of people living with dementia in Suffolk have been officially diagnosed with the condition, according to a mental health charity.

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Figures released by the Alzheimer’s Society show rise in an increase of 2,000 dementia sufferers in the East of England, with 344 more people diagnosed in Suffolk alone.

But the charity claims that just 41.6% of sufferers in the county have been diagnosed by doctors, and that more than 5,000 people could be missing out on support, benefits and treatments.

National figures suggest that dementia sufferers are facing a postcode lottery of diagnosis rates. In some areas of the UK, as few as one in three sufferers will receive a formal diagnosis

But in other areas three quarters of dementia sufferers will be told about their condition. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the variation was “unacceptable”.

There are currently almost 32,000 people in the East of England with diagnosed dementia, with 3,796 in Suffolk, where the number of sufferers could actually be as high as 9,116, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

Paul Dunnery, area manager for the charity in East Anglia said: “It’s encouraging to see an increase in the number people that are receiving a diagnosis in East Anglia – but half of people that are living with dementia aren’t receiving the support, benefits and the treatments that are often available.

“The NHS has made a commitment to improving diagnosis rates so now it is time for that commitment to turn into action locally.”

In north-east Essex, figures show the number of undiagnosed sufferers could be even higher, with the Alzheimer’s Society claiming only 32.2% are identified as having the condition.

Yesterday, the EADT reported that tackling dementia has been singled out as a “priority issue” in Essex, following a report stating the disease could affect 57% more people by 2025. The society’s prevalence rates are measured against diagnosis statistics from Government data for 2011 to 2012.

Suffolk’s dementia strategy includes delivering a specialist home care service and raising awareness and understanding. The county piloted two dementia support advisor services and has been following a national strategy to improve early diagnosis.

An NHS spokesman said: “It is a priority for both clinical commissioning groups (CCG) in Suffolk to further increase the rate of dementia diagnosis. Both CCGs are working with Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Community Healthcare and the voluntary sector to achieve this. Early diagnosis can mean there may be opportunities to halt or slow down the progression of dementia during the early stages, enabling people to keep their independence longer.”

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