New NHS service to fast-track dementia diagnosis launches in Kent and Medway in support of Dementia Action Week (16-22 May)

Date added: 16 May 2022

Kent and Medway residents worried about their memory will be able to get a diagnosis quicker, thanks to Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust’s (KMPT) new Enhanced Memory Assessment and Intervention service.

The service will be rolled out from June 2022. It has been developed by Kent and Medway clinicians and will be available to people with concerns about their memory who are referred by their GP or other healthcare professional. People will be assessed and then diagnosed by clinicians on the same day and within six weeks of their GP referral. Currently there are two separate stages to diagnosis, the first is an assessment and the second is a follow up appointment with a clinician which can take on average 18 weeks from a referral. 

On referral to KMPT, people will be seen by the enhanced team which will involve a comprehensive memory assessment, diagnosis from a consultant psychiatrist, and a range of interventions individualised to the persons’ needs, as well as support following diagnosis.

The service is part of a wider programme of work being delivered by KMPT and the Kent and Medway Integrated Care System (ICS) to improve dementia services in the county. This includes work around raising dementia awareness and pre and post-diagnostic support to enable people with dementia to live well. KMPT has also started a programme with GPs to train them to become dementia experts, which will see more people diagnosed in primary care settings in the future.

KMPT has also joined forces with Alzheimer’s Society in National Dementia Action Week (16-22 May) to raise awareness of the signs of dementia among the public and across primary care. Alzheimer’s Society research shows that the misconception around memory loss being a sign of normal ageing is the biggest barrier to people seeking a dementia diagnosis.

Dr Afifa Qazi, Chief Medical Officer and Consultant Psychiatrist at KMPT said: “Memory loss is not a normal part of getting older and could be a sign of early dementia. From time to time we can all forget things, but if forgetfulness is getting worse or affecting your everyday life then please come forward and reach out for help. You can contact the Alzheimer’s Society or your GP. The sooner people are referred by their GP the quicker we can diagnose them through our new service and offer the best quality treatment. This is why we are supporting Dementia Action Week as it is vital that people feel empowered to come forward with their symptoms.

“Dementia diagnosis rates across the UK fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, we at KMPT are committed to getting this back on track in Kent and Medway. We are working closely with our partners to improve the diagnosis rates and are pleased to share that we are ahead both regionally and nationally in dementia register growth compared to the national average. With that said, we recognise there is still more to do to improve diagnosis and make a positive difference to people living with dementia. If anyone has already been referred to us and is waiting for an assessment or clinician appointment we are committed to reducing the time it takes for a diagnosis.”

Tracey Shorthouse, a Kent resident living with dementia and dementia envoy at KMPT, shared: “I was diagnosed with two forms of dementia when I was 45-years-old. My GP simply wasn’t looking for those early signs of the disease because of my age. There is still a perception that dementia is something only older people get. It was a really frustrating time as I knew there was something wrong but I was being told that there wasn’t. Funnily enough, having a diagnosis made it much easier for me. It was a shock, of course, but there was no more worrying or questioning what was wrong. I knew. There was a definitive answer and I could finally get on with living my life.”

If you are worried about your memory talk to your GP or the Alzhemier’s Society by calling their Dementia Connect support line 0333 150 3456 or visiting their new memory hub at where you can use their new symptom checker.

Each person experiences dementia in their own individual way. Different types of dementia also tend to affect people differently, especially in the early stages. However, there are some common early signs and symptoms of dementia. These include:

  • memory loss – for example, problems recalling things that happened recently
  • difficulty concentrating, planning or organising – for example, struggling to make decisions, solve problems or follow a series of steps (such as cooking a meal)
  • problems with language and communication – for example, difficulties following a conversation or finding the right word for something
  • misunderstanding what is being seen – for example, problems judging distances (such as on stairs) or perceiving the edges of objects, and misinterpreting patterns or reflections
  • being confused about time or place – for example, losing track of the time or date, or becoming confused about where they are
  • mood changes or difficulty controlling emotions – for example, becoming unusually anxiousirritable, sad or frightened, losing interest in things and personality changes.

Dr Afifa Qazi will be speaking at the Alzheimer’s Society National Conference on how integrated care systems which enable collaborative working across organisations can improve care for people with dementia. KMPT and Alzheimer’s Society will also be hosting a local conference on Friday 20 May to examine the dementia diagnosis opportunities and challenges across Kent and Medway with health and social care partners.