CAMPAIGNING pensioners have called for better social care after it was revealed that more than 1,000 older people in Tendring may be living with undiagnosed dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society says that, while diagnosis rates for the condition have improved in recent years, the level of detection varies drastically across England – with the disease now thought to be the country’s biggest killer.

NHS Digital data shows that 1,913 people aged 65 or over in Tendring had a recorded dementia diagnosis in September.

But estimates in the same data, based on the local population, suggest the real number could be 2,938, meaning around 1,025 pensioners may have dementia without it being recorded by their doctor.

Tendring Pensioners’ Action Group (Tenpag) said better funding for social care and training for carers would help in getting people diagnosed.

Chairman Mike Le Cornu said: “We are not surprised that the diagnosis rate in elderly people is so low.

“Better social care is the key to better diagnosis.

“When care visits are limited to only 15 minute in most cases, there is no time for a carer to have a conversation and become aware of any issues that might point to dementia.

“Elderly people living on their own and becoming victims to dementia may not be aware of the deterioration in their mental state and cannot be relied upon to bring it to the attention of medical professionals.

“The days of a family GP knowing their patients and noticing differences in their behaviour are also a thing of the past, with stretched GP practices having to use locums and only able to allocate short appointment times diagnosis is easy to miss.

“This is not a criticism of healthcare professionals, but of the system that they are forced to work within.

“We have been told that the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, Tendring Council and Essex County Council are pushing for better social care and are now recognising, at last, that this is the key to ensuring that the elderly and the vulnerable have a better quality of life and that this will alleviate some of the pressure on the NHS.

“It is our hope that a larger social care budget will result in longer care visits and better training for carers, including specialised dementia training, this will help to ensure that GPs are made aware of any signs of dementia and then can act accordingly.”

The figures showed that hundreds of older people in Colchester may also be living with undiagnosed dementia.

Data shows 1,466 people in Colchester have been diagnosed with dementia, but that the real number could be 2,229, meaning around 763 pensioners may be undiagnosed.

The detection rate varied dramatically throughout the country – Enfield in London had a recorded diagnosis rate of 93 per cent, while in South Hams in Devon, it was just 43 per cent. The figure is 65 per cent in Tendring.

Across England, 462,000 older people had recorded dementia in September.

Sally Copley, the Alzheimer’s Society’s director of policy and campaigns, said the disparity between diagnosis in different areas was “worrying”.

“The number of people with dementia is set to double over the next two decades, and as data shows, it’s still the UK’s biggest killer,” she added.

“It has never been more urgent to ensure a proper system of social care is in place.”

Dementia is a term used to describe symptoms such as loss of memory, behaviour changes and problems in reasoning.