DEMENTIA patients in Southampton are 20 per cent more likely to get the treatment they need than the rest of the country, figures released today show.

More than half of those suffering from the debilitating disease in the city were diagnosed last year, allowing them to get the vital drugs and support they need to live as normal a life as possible.

Figures revealed by the Alzheimer’s Society show that the diagnosis rate in Southampton is 54.7 per cent, compared to the national average for England of 44.2 per cent.

But campaigners are urging that the NHS needs to take immediate action to ensure diagnosis rates across the UK are improved and end the current “postcode lottery” system, which sees as few as one in three people with the condition diagnosed in some parts of the UK.

In the past 12 months 1,439 people in Southampton were diagnosed with dementia, an increase of 152 on the previous year, and 8,695 people were diagnosed in Hampshire – up by 407.

Across the south there are now 23,000 people diagnosed with dementia but, crucially, there are thought to be another 29,000 who are living with the condition undiagnosed, leaving them without the benefits and treatments that could improve their lives.

Southampton’s diagnosis rate of 54.7 per cent and Hampshire’s 45.3 per cent are both better than England’s average, thanks to the prioritisation of early diagnosis, but health bosses have vowed to keep working together to ensure this figure keeps on rising.

Dr Steve Townsend, chairman of Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which takes over the commissioning of healthcare in Southampton on April 1, said: “Health professionals are also more likely to diagnose it than in the past because we are much more aware of the importance of early diagnosis, which means that patients can be carefully assessed so that they and their carers can be offered support and treatment.

“We have an excellent record of treating dementia in Southampton, and the local NHS and social services are working together to ensure that we continue to improve our services.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the current “extreme” variation of diagnosis rates – from 31.6 per cent in the East Riding of Yorkshire to 75 per cent in Belfast – is “unacceptable”.

Angie Newing, regional director for the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “The NHS has made a commitment to improving diagnosis rates so now it is time for that commitment to turn into action locally.”