Primary care and community nurses will be at the heart of a major government push to improve dementia diagnosis rates by identifying risk factors and referring those in need of assessment to memory clinics.
Only 42 per cent of people with dementia in England have a formal diagnosis, with rates varying from 27 per cent to 59 per cent in the best and worst performing areas.
The Prime Minister's challenge on dementia, revealed last week, includes a commitment to ensuring health professionals make older patients aware of specialist memory services. From April 2013, there will be a 'quantified ambition' for diagnosis rates across the country, and all nurses in regular contact with elderly patients will be expected to help hit the target.
Some 94 per cent of PCTs now have a dedicated memory service for dementia and a further 4 per cent plan to offer such a service in future.
There will also be a new indicator on dementia diagnosis in the NHS Outcomes Framework. Clinical Commissioning Groups and local health and wellbeing boards will be to asked to develop action plans to improve local diagnosis rates.
Speaking at the Dementia 2012 Conference, prime minister David Cameron said: 'At their usual five-yearly health check, as well as when they normally see their GP, those at risk will be referred on - just as they would be with a heart problem.'
Care services minister Paul Burstow (pictured) added: 'We are determined to go further and faster on dementia focusing on the three areas that matter most: awareness, quality care and research.'
The DoH confirmed that, from next month, a pot of funding totalling £54 million would be available to hospitals in England offering dementia risk assessments to 90 per cent of over-75 year olds admitted as emergencies. Funding for research into dementia and neurodegenerative disease will double to £66 million a year by 2014/15.
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'The way we care for people with dementia today will be the test of how compassionate a society we really are, but the long-term answer lies in research. UK dementia scientists lead the world in terms of research quality and impact; with increased funds, our researchers will deliver the answers.'