HEALTH chiefs have pledged to speed up dementia diagnosis times after official figures suggested East Lancashire was lagging behind most other areas of England.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has highlighted long waiting times faced by patients in some parts of the country, saying that suspected dementia cases should be diagnosed within six weeks.

Many areas are achieving this, including other parts of Lancashire, but the average waiting time in East Lancashire is 18 weeks. This is the sixth worst figure in the country, according to statistics published by the Department of Health.

Mr Hunt has announced a number of pledges to cut waiting times, and plans to work with businesses to train staff to spot signs of the disease, reduce stigma and help the most vulnerable.

He told a national newspaper: “There are parts of the country were it takes six months to get a dementia diagnosis, which is scandalous. I want to get to a situation where the average across the country is no more than six weeks.”

Dr Amanda Thornton, clinical director for adult community services at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which provides the East Lancashire Memory Assessment Service, said: “The trust acknowledges that there is a varied position across Lancashire in relation to waiting times.

“There are areas where the current wait for an assessment is less than six weeks, and this year the trust is aiming to replicate this across the county.

“An action plan to support this has been developed.”