Number of people diagnosed with dementia hits record high

  • Video report by ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan

The number of older people living with dementia hit a record high last month, new figures show.

A total of 453,881 over-65s were living with the condition in May, NHS England said.

This number has increased by 7% since the data was first recorded in June 2016, from 424,390 diagnoses.

With numbers increasing rapidly some hospitals, such as Royal Free Hospital in north London, have moved to look after dementia patients differently.

They've decorated the ward to look like an old seaside resort to allow them to see the "outside world and trigger pleasant memories" - but every bed is taken and the waiting list is lengthy.

The ward has been decorated to help dementia patients during treatment. Credit: ITV News

Danielle Wilde, group lead for dementia, at the Royal Free Hospital, said: "We tend to be a bit of a last resort for patients to be brought. In many cases patients who are brought to hospital don't have a medical reason for being here.

"They're brought here because there are people here who can look after them, we need to change that."

NHS leaders admit the service is having to run to keep up but they insist there is more care in the community.

Danielle Wilde said hospitals are a "last resort" for many dementia patients. Credit: ITV News

Alistair Burns, NHS national clinical director for dementia and older people's mental health, said: "Spotting dementia in a timely way means people get the care they need, when they need it, so it's good news that more people are having their condition identified and their treatment delivered.

"As the population ages, the NHS is having to run to keep up as dementia becomes a challenge for more and more families, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a blueprint for older people's care and makes early diagnosis and treatment for major health problems a top priority."

It is of such high importance to the NHS because dementia is now the biggest health and social care crisis of our time.

One specialist care home in Bristol is having to expand meet the need.

Christopher Taylor of the Olive Tree House said: "As the years progress we are seeing more and more people with higher needs dementia coming to us.

"Our homes are full basically, with waiting lists with people who have high needs dementia."

There is no cure for dementia and trying to prevent the condition is the only way to reduce the number of diagnoses.

But with an ageing population many feel it's also time to revolutionise the way patients are supported.