Dementia is an irreversible and progressive condition characterized by a global deterioration of a person’s cognitive abilities. With an ageing population, the number of people diagnosed with dementia is expected to rise both in the UK and abroad. Consequently, government policies across the world have stressed the need to improve early diagnosis of dementia in the hope that this will facilitate adjustment to the illness and thus to prolong independence. Arguably, one way of achieving this aim is to strengthen the role of primary care in the assessment, diagnosis and subsequent support of people affected by dementia. The purpose of this commentary is to explore the role of mental health and memory nurses in this process drawing on examples from the UK and Australia. Although there are a number of risks about increasing the role of primary care, pressures from limited budgets and resources at a time when the numbers of people affected by dementia are set to increase, means that it is inevitable that primary care will have a more influential role in dementia care than before. Consequently, it is important that the implications of these policy changes for mental health and specialist memory nurses are clearly understood.