The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) has today upheld its recommendation against screening everyone aged 65 and over for dementia. The Committee reviewed the current evidence extensively and concluded that the current test for dementia, which is a form of questionnaire, does not accurately identify those people who have dementia and those who do not.
To recommend screening, the Committee would need to be confident that by acting early, treatments would slow or even prevent this serious disease. At the moment these treatments do not exist.
Alzheimer’s Society opposes routine population screening, as there is not yet evidence to support it, but does support a case finding approach where clinicians ask those who are at a higher risk of developing dementia if they are concerned about their memory and then refer them for appropriate tests if they are concerned. There are no current proposals to introduce routine population screening for dementia.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘Everyone with dementia has the right to know about their condition and tackle it head on, but the UK National Screening Committee are right that until tests are more accurate and the right treatments are available, population screening for dementia amongst all over 65s remains inappropriate.
‘However, given that little more than half of the 850,000 people with dementia in the UK currently have a diagnosis, programmes that identify and work with people at risk of developing dementia are essential. Although we do not recommend universal screening, we strongly advise that GPs ask those who are at a higher risk of dementia about their memory. This is a vital step towards raising our historically low diagnosis rates. A timely diagnosis can open the door to treatments and support and give people time to plan for the future.’