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Thursday, 14 September 2017

'Alarming' rise in Scots deaths from Alzheimer's placing 'heavy strain' on care services

Written by The Press Association

Deaths from Alzheimer's disease have risen by a third in the last year, with campaigners warning the "alarming" increase is placing a "heavy strain" on the NHS and care services.

A total of 570 deaths from the disease were recorded in the period March to June 2017, new data from the National Records of Scotland showed, a rise of 33.4% the same period last year and more than double the 257 deaths that occurred in the same three months of in 2014.

A further 936 deaths in Scotland were a result of dementia, the figures showed, with this having increased by 16.9% over the year - although this was said in part to be due to changes in the cause of death coding software.

Meanwhile deaths from coronary heart disease fell by 5.3% to 1,590 in the second quarter of 2017, and there was also a slight decrease in cancer deaths, which were down 0.8% to 3,831

The latest NRS quarterly report on births, deaths and marriages stated: "There has been a relatively large increase in the number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer's disease with such deaths now accounting for around 10% of all deaths compared to 5% a decade ago."

Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: " Alarming as this report is, we cannot hide away from the reality these statistics represent: the devastating impact of dementia across Scotland.

"Part of the increase has been driven by changes in the way death records are represented in official statistics, but this does not fully account for the size of the increase and we must face up to the fact that dementia is set to become the UK's biggest killer as our population ages."

He added: " While age is the biggest risk factor for the condition, dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing - we can defeat it. The only way to stop dementia from being a death sentence in future is through the power of research.

"At Alzheimer's Research UK, we have set ourselves the mission of bringing about a life-changing treatment for dementia by 2025.

"An effective treatment would not only make a huge difference to people affected by dementia, but would reduce the heavy strain the condition is placing on our health and social care system, helping more people to stay healthier for longer.

"For this to happen, we need to see an increased investment in dementia research. We've made great progress, but the job is not done yet and these statistics only emphasise the urgency of the challenge ahead."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs called on ministers to set out what they are doing to tackle the increasing number of Alzheimer's and dementia deaths.

The Tory MSP said: " It seems that gradually the high-profile killers are being reduced, and of course that is to be absolutely welcomed. But they are being replaced by cruel and challenging conditions like Alzheimer's.

"This reveals a major challenge facing Scotland's health and social care system.

"Longer life expectancy is good news for everyone, but we can't ignore the different challenges that brings.

"The SNP has had a decade in charge of health and social care to prepare for this, and we need to start seeing signs that this government has a plan."

Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said: " In line with other countries, the number of people diagnosed with dementia has risen as the population ages and rates of diagnosis have improved.

"Our National Dementia Strategy sets out actions to transform services and improve outcomes for people with dementia, their families and carers to give them the right care, at the right time in the right setting."

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