TOWNS and villages to the north of Bradford have some of the highest rates of patients suffering from dementia in the country, new figures have revealed.

As of April this year, 1,365 patients registered at the 17 GP practices within the Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), an area that includes Keighley, Ilkley and Skipton, had been diagnosed with the condition, an increase of 149 from 1,216 the previous year.

The current figure puts the CCG in the top ten per cent in England for the number of dementia diagnoses per population, with the condition affecting 0.87 per cent of the area's156, 676 patients, the highest rate in West Yorkshire and way above the national average of 0.61 per cent.

Last night, the new figures were pounced upon by campaigners who recently presented a 5,500-name petition to stop a dedicated dementia ward being moved from Airedale Hospital to Bradford's Lynfield Mount.

Councillor Doreen Lee (Labour, Keighley East) said: "How can they quantify closing the centre now? Are all these newly-diagnosed people going to be sent to Bradford? I want to know who is going to care for them."

Councillor Adrian Naylor (Ind, Craven), said the "concerning" new figures highlighted the logic of keeping care facilities as close to the community as possible.

He said: "We need to establish the reason for this rise, is it better levels of diagnosis, or is there an underlying cause. We have to make sure we plan for the future."

The Health and Social Care Information Centre's new data revealed that recorded diagnoses of dementia had risen by eight per cent nationwide since 2012/13, from 318,000 to the current 344,000.

The Bradford Districts CCG, covering Bingley, Shipley, Saltaire, Heaton and Tong, had the second highest West Yorkshire figure, with 2,328 registered dementia sufferers, 0.7 per cent of its 332,267 patients, a yearly increase of 119.

In contrast, Bradford's City CCG had the second lowest rate of dementia diagnosis in the country, with just 309, or 0.26 per cent, of 120,781 patients.

A spokesman for the three local CCGs said they had been praised for leading the way in diagnosing dementia sufferers, with up to 65 per cent of cases in the district being formally recognised, higher than the national average of 48 per cent.

"Our priority across the district is to diagnose dementia at an early stage so patients and their carers can get the specialist care and support they need as soon as possible.

"The Bradford City CCG has a large and growing young population, so we would expect to see a lower prevalence of dementia, whereas the population of Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG has a growing older population, so there is a higher prevalence," said the spokesman.