Some Northern Ireland dementia patients wait over nine months for diagnosis
Some people in Northern Ireland are left waiting for more than nine months for a memory clinic to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of dementia.
The South Eastern Trust had the highest waiting list numbers and the longest delays, with a sample of 10 patients revealing waiting times of six months to more than nine months.
The figures obtained by The Detail via Freedom of Information also show considerable variation in waiting numbers, waiting times and the type of memory service available in each of the five health trusts.
They reveal that in early 2017 close to 1,000 patients here were waiting for an appointment for assessment at a local memory clinic.
Memory clinics are just one element of memory services provided by trusts - the main function of these clinics is specialist assessment and diagnosis of dementia.
The Alzheimer's Society in Northern Ireland said everyone had a right to a "swift diagnosis".
The charity's Barry Smyth said: "These figures are obviously very concerning and they reflect what our staff are seeing on the ground.
"People are waiting much too long for a diagnosis of dementia."
A leading expert in the dementia field, he added that early assessment and diagnosis is key for patients and their families.
Dr Peter Passmore, Professor of Ageing and Geriatric Medicine at Queen's University Belfast, said: "It depends on each situation, but the theory would be to assess as early as possible, diagnose as early as possible and treat as early as possible."
More than 13,000 people have a formal diagnosis of dementia in Northern Ireland but it is estimated that a further 7,000 people remain undiagnosed and untreated for the disease.
Loss of memory and cognitive function are hallmarks of the progressive disease, which affects the brain and is more common among people over the age of 65.