NICE backs support for dementia carers to enter QOF

Annual health checks for dementia carers could be added to the QOF within two years after provisional targets were approved by a NICE expert panel.

The move would see GPs earn points for keeping a register of patients who care for people with dementia and for assessing their health each year.

The panel also backed ambulatory BP monitoring for hypertension diagnosis, as revealed by GP this month.

The measures to improve support for carers will now be piloted at GP practices across the UK following the decision by NICE's independent advisory committee at a meeting in Manchester on Wednesday.

GPs would earn points for keeping a register of carers and adding their contact details to dementia patients’ records. Carers would also have their health and support needs assessed every 12 months.

Aberdeen GP Dr Colin Hunter, chairman of the QOF advisory committee, said: 'Anything to provide support [to these carers] should be recommended. It is very important to look after these people.’

Louise Lakey, policy manager for the Alzheimer's Society, said: ‘While we welcome targets for GPs to help them support carers, we are disappointed that encouraging the early diagnosis of dementia has been ignored.

'People can battle for years to get a formal diagnosis. Yet a diagnosis allows people to make sense of what is happening to them, gives vital access to services and reduces the costs of crisis care. GPs are the gatekeepers to making this happen. Not including an indicator to improve early diagnosis is a missed opportunity.’
 
She added: ‘By 2021 there will be a million people living with dementia. It’s crucial that the QOF is reformed to support GPs to improve diagnosis rates.’

Ambulatory BP monitoring to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension will also be piloted. Committee members echoed prior concerns from GPs that practices could be forced to spend thousands of pounds purchasing, maintaining and servicing the devices.

Full wording of the proposed indicators:

  • The percentage of patients with dementia with the contact details of a named carer on their record.
  • The practice has a register of patients who are carers of a person with dementia.
  • The percentage of carers (of a person with dementia) who have had an assessment of their health and support needs in the preceding 12 months.

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