Exclusive: GPs need tenfold rise in dementia diagnosis to hit NHS target

GPs would need to increase dementia diagnosis tenfold in March to hit a controversial target set by NHS England, analysis by GPonline reveals.

Care home: dementia diagnosis drive falling short
Care home: dementia diagnosis drive falling short

A total of 377,007 patients were on QOF dementia registers at the end of February 2015, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

This is 56% of the 676,000 people that NHS England currently estimate have dementia. Its ambition is for 67% of patients to have received a diagnosis by the end of March.

73,000 more people would have to be diagnosed with dementia by the end of March for NHS England to meet its aim, which some experts have described as ‘arbitrary’ and potentially harmful to patients.

Controversial DES

The Dementia Identification Scheme enhanced service, which has been the subject of criticism from top GPs, is ending on 31 March 2015.

Since it was implemented, dementia diagnosis rates have soared, with around 8,000 more people being added to practices' QOF dementia registers each month.

NHS England will be lowering its estimated prevalence of dementia in April, but has yet to confirm what the new estimated prevalence will be.

Dementia prevalence is thought to be dropping in the UK due to general improvements in population health. NHS England is dropping its estimate based on ‘more accurate information’, using the CFAS II study published in 2013.

CCG dementia guidance

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England’s clinical director for dementia, said: ‘From April 2015, we need to issue new guidance to CCGs as part of next year’s planning round and it was our responsibility to use the best science available.

‘It allows us to take into account local circumstances and to give a range of values.’

NHS England says the estimate will help it to target support to areas where the diagnosis rate is not rising as fast as the rest of the country.

It will be ‘holding CCGs intensively to account for their activities towards the national ambition’.

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