Dementia testing trials to be held in south London

07:46 05 November 2012

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Camberwell’s Maudsley Hospital will play host to a new Government-backed medical trial that is said to slash the time it takes to diagnose dementia from 18 months to just three.

The new digital diagnosis system, which will be piloted on 200 patients at the hospital - and one other trust - early next year, combines computer-based tests of memory and thinking with computerised analysis of MRI brain scans.

Under the process, GPs carry out initial memory tests using iPad-compatible software that differentiates between patients with normal and abnormal memory in ten minutes.

London-based medical imaging company IXICO and Cambridge Cognition, a neuropsychological test developer, are behind the new technology along with university experts.

Those who need further investigation are then sent to a specialist brain health centre where brain scans and more detailed computer tests are carried out using a specially-designed programme.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce the launch of the pilot scheme at an event later this week, according to reports.

Professor Alistair Burns, the national clinical director for dementia, said: “I am very impressed by the brain health centre project which has the real potential to contribute to making the UK a world leader in dementia care by raising diagnosis rates - a key ambition of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge.

“Combining innovative technologies in this way should help us to spot early signs of dementia, giving us time to offer patients better support and care.”

Jeremy Hughes, the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There are 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK, but fewer than half of people with the condition have a diagnosis.

“As numbers double and costs soar, developing new and earlier ways of diagnosing the condition is imperative.

“This technology could potentially reduce the time people need to wait for a diagnosis significantly.”

The illness affects one in three people over 65 years old, with current figures showing 670,000 people have dementia in England. But this number is set to double in the next 30 years.

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