Exclusive: Dementia flagged as priority but services are cut by PCTs

GP survey reveals widespread cuts to dementia services

One in four PCTs has closed or reduced dementia services in the past three years, and less than half have early detection services in place, GP can reveal.

This comes despite the maj­ority of PCTs – 98 per cent – stating that dementia care is one of their main priorities.

The findings were revealed after GP obtained data from 57 PCTs across England under the Freedom of Information Act.

They coincide with a WHO report on mental health, published earlier this month, which found that dementia care in England is in the bottom third of a European league table.

GPs have previously warned that they sometimes have little choice but to risk being struck off for prescribing antipsychotics to dementia patients because of a lack of specialist units for referral (GPs face sanctions on prescribing, GP, 27 June).

Dr Chris Manning, a member of the RCGP mental health group and founder of charity Primary Care Mental Health and Education (PRIMHE), said: ‘We should be increasing services to cope with the increasing burden of dementia, not cutting them.

‘PCTs are cutting dementia services because they would not dare cut services in other areas such as cancer.’

Dr Manning said that dementia suffers have the double stigma of being old and having a mental health problem. It is appalling that we treat our elders so badly, he added.

Clive Evers, director of information and education at the Alzheimer’s Society, described the findings as ‘extremely distressing’.

‘It is very worrying that 41 per cent of PCTs had no services for early detection. Early detection is vital – the sooner you identify dementia the sooner you can plan for the future.’

Lumping dementia patients into older people’s services is unacceptable, he added.

‘Dementia sufferers will lose out because they have specific needs and require regular support that will not be met,’ he explained.

Dr Ian Walton, a GP in the West Midlands and chairman of PRIMHE, added: ‘Dementia care is in a pretty sorry state
and few services are properly integrated.’

But Sube Banerjee, professor of mental health and ageing at King’s College London and DoH lead on the national dementia strategy, said that it was not surprising to see a variation in terms of service provision over the past few years.

‘One of the things that the strategy is trying to do is create a level playing field for dementia care,’ said Professor Banerjee. ‘The whole strategy is there to benefit primary care.’

The DoH is expected to launch the first ever national dementia strategy in mid-November.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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