LONDON - Securing an Alzheimer's diagnosis involves multiple tests including brain scans, and can take months – or even years. But that could be about to change: several blood tests for the disease are in the late stages of development, some of which can pick up traces of Alzheimer's proteins up to a decade before symptoms appear.

Now, the British National Health Service (NHS), in conjunction with Alzheimer's charities, is launching a £5 million project, involving 1,000 patients, to assess the viability of these tests in a real-world setting.

The hope is that one might be available on the health service as soon as 2028. Earlier diagnosis would ensure that patients have earlier access to care and support; it would also enable them to be treated with new drugs.

Two drugs, donanemab and lecanemab, have recently been shown to slow the progress of Alzheimer's, and are being evaluated for use in the NHS. But for them to be effective, early diagnosis will be vital – and the current diagnostic system would collapse under the strain of likely demand.