APPG report shows lack of services is impacting on dementia diagnosis for rural patients

A new joint report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dementia and the Alzheimer's Society has revealed that poor access to, or a lack of services in rural areas, means many people suffering from Alzheimer's aren’t receiving the care and treatment they need.

The report follows an inquiry which “focuses on understanding the scale of impact of regional health inequalities on access to a dementia diagnosis and developing solutions to reduce their influence.”

Raising the Barriers is an “action plan to tackle regional variation in dementia diagnosis in England”.  It also considers that impact rurality can have on accessing services.  The report says that “Ageing is the biggest risk factor for dementia, and older people comprise a significant segment of the approximately 10 million people in England who live in rural areas. Rural populations are generally older – 24% of those living in rural areas are over 65, compared to 16% in urban areas. The percentage of the population aged over 85 – the group most likely to need care – is significantly higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Public Health England reported in 2019 that the population aged over 65 years old will grow by around 50% in rural areas by 2039. There are particular challenges to accessing healthcare services in rural areas, including infrastructure limitations such as sparse or unreliable transport links and internet access. In addition, living in rural areas increases the risk of social isolation and loneliness which are known to contribute to the risk of dementia. Future Health’s recent analysis of dementia diagnosis rates data for England found an association between above average levels of rural living and rates of dementia under-diagnosis.”

Ian Sherriff BEM

Mr Ian Sherriff BEM, Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia at the University of Plymouth, was amongst a group of experts who gave evidence to the APPG.  He told the inquiry that his conversations with GPs in rural regions indicated that the link between GPs and the community teams responsible for dementia diagnosis (memory clinics and community mental health teams) can be poor, with referrals often declined unexpectedly or lost in the system. 

Mr Sherriff said:

“The divide between urban and rural health and care access in England is currently significant and needs to be addressed. Rural populations are generally older and the farming community in particular experiences high levels of reluctance to seek a dementia diagnosis.

“Our research and other activities is making a difference here in the South West to this, supporting and empowering those living with dementia. But, if we are to deliver real and lasting change, that needs to be driven at a national level, and this report will hopefully go some way to achieving that.”

The report makes a series of recommendations and calls on the government to put an end to the differences in dementia diagnosis rates facing people depending on where they live in the country.

To find out more about the report and its recommendations, visit:


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