Specialist nurses in general practice will participate in new pilots which will see care home residents proactively screened by for dementia in 14 areas of England.
The new drive to improve diagnosis rates will see general practice staff share a list of care home residents who currently do not have a dementia diagnosis.
Staff involved in NHS England’s pilot will then check with the care home to see if those listed have memory problems.
At-risk residents will be offered a full face-to-face assessment by a clinician who may be a specialist nurse or another healthcare professional.
The clinician will review the patient’s use of medication and speak to family and friends to determine whether they have dementia.
NHS England said it will be investing £900,000 to launch two pilots in each of England’s seven regions, following a successful earlier trial in Norfolk.
NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia Professor Alistair Burns said: ‘The pandemic has naturally had an impact on the number of people diagnosed with dementia, with elderly people seeing fewer people to protect themselves from Covid-19.
‘The NHS is determined to ensure those who developed dementia during the pandemic are given a diagnosis as it will open up doors to further support for people and their families who suffer from this heart-breaking disease.
‘There are many things we can do in the NHS to care for and support people if they do get a diagnosis, and importantly there is support for their families and carers too.’
He added that people who have noticed dementia symptoms in relatives over the festive period should ‘encourage them to visit their GP for an assessment’.
People with dementia face waits of up to two years for a diagnosis because memory clinics are ‘chronically underfunded and overlooked’, an audit of services across England and Wales found last year.
Meanwhile, antipsychotic prescribing to dementia patients in care homes rose by over 50% on average during the pandemic.