Elderly patients face six-month wait for dementia diagnosis

Some 568 people living in Edinburgh were on memory assessment waiting lists at the end of March, according to official figures.

Elderly patients in Edinburgh face six-month wait for dementia diagnosis iStock
Elderly patients are being made to wait six months for a dementia diagnosis.

Hundreds of elderly patients in Edinburgh are being made to wait more than six months for dementia diagnoses, it has emerged.

Some 568 older people living in the capital were on waiting lists for a memory assessment treatment clinic at the end of March.

The figures were revealed in a report to Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) –  a partnership between Edinburgh City Council,  NHS Lothian, care providers, the third sector and service users – which met on Tuesday.

It was also found that those yet to be assessed are waiting an average of 29 weeks.

Memory assessment clinics provide diagnosis and support for people with dementia and their families, giving patients access to specialist psychiatrists, geriatricians, and neurologists who can identify specific conditions.

EIJB chief officer Judith Proctor warned an anticipated increase in diagnosis rates will “potentially increase” referrals to other mental health services including community teams, psychology services, social care and older people’s day services.

She said: “Additional funding has been allocated by the Scottish Government and prioritisation has been given to addressing the waiting list and improvement of access to assessment and treatment.

“A working group has been established to address the issues and monitor recruitment already underway to medical, nursing and occupational therapy posts.”

The pressures have in-part have been caused by carer shortages – with 28 social worker vacancies reported in the city at the beginning of March.

The EIJB is said to be addressing this issue through a recruitment drive and a plan to “increase capacity of social work teams”, supported by additional Scottish Government funding.

Ms Proctor added: “Pressures within the system are not new although they have been exacerbated by the impacts of EU Exit and the Covid pandemic.

“These pressures have been long-standing in Edinburgh and are a result of many factors, not all of which are under the control of the partners.

“The EIJB has recognised the need for a longer-term strategy of transformation, sustainability and innovation and this has been set out in successive strategic plans.

“All aspects of this ambitious programme aim to improve outcomes for people and provide greater opportunity for people to be as independent as they can be, for as long as possible and, when they require care, for this to be provided as close to home or in as homely environment as possible.”

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