A SPEEDY diagnosis and quick access to specialist support makes a huge difference to the wellbeing of people with dementia and their families– according to new research.

A report from Healthwatch County Durham, an organisation which speaks up for all those who use health and social care, also highlights how health professionals could improve how they signpost to the wealth of dementia support groups in the county.

The research findings– published to coincide with Dementia Action Week 2019– is based on feedback from people with direct experience of local dementia services.

Surveys were completed with 50 people with dementia and the majority were happy with the support they received, yet around a quarter did not feel supported by their GP. Nearly all of them had been referred by their GP to other services but the referrals took more than four weeks for 45 per cent of patients, which they said made their dementia journey more difficult.

The experience of one carer - “Dave” - is highlighted in the report to demonstrate how local independent support groups and services are helping people with dementia to live well. However, “Dave”, like many others Healthwatch spoke to, discovered these on the recommendation of friends and family, because professionals had not signposted him to them.

Based on all the first-hand experiences received, the report concludes the speed of diagnosis and referrals can make a huge difference to the lives of people with dementia and those around them.

Neil Jarvis, strategic commissioning manager for adult and health services at Durham County Council, and chairman of the Dementia Strategy Implementation Group, said: “We have made dementia one of our priorities so having good feedback on that is great for us.

“Clearly the main issue to come out of this for future work is the need for speedy referral into support services and the role of the NHS in that process. Though we have done quite a lot of work on that already we definitely need to make sure we keep the focus on it in future as a priority.

“As we move to integrated commissioning with the NHS it can only help with knitting services together and making sure the whole system works for people.”