Exclusive: NHS England set to miss dementia diagnosis target

NHS England is unlikely to meet its 67% target for diagnosing patients with dementia, analysis by GP has found.

Dementia: diagnosis target likely to be missed (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dementia: diagnosis target likely to be missed (Photo: JH Lancy)

NHS England introduced a controversial DES in October 2014 as part of its effort to drive up dementia diagnosis rates so that two-thirds of people with dementia would have an official diagnosis. The DH estimates that 676,000 people in England have the condition.

The DES is due to end on 31 March, by which time 450,000 people would have to be officially diagnosed with dementia in order for the 67% target to be met.

But official data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that at the end of January only 371,244 people were on QOF dementia registers, and diagnoses are not rising fast enough to meet the national target.

Analysis by GP has found that the number has been rising by less than 9,000 per month, on average, since the DES was introduced – meaning the 80,000 diagnoses needed to meet the target are unlikely to happen before the end of March.

Graph: dementia diagnosis rise

The GPC has been outspoken in its criticism of the dementia DES, calling on GPs to consider boycotting the incentive when it was launched.

‘We’ve always said that having an arbitrary target isn’t helpful, and chasing targets can often lead to perverse outcomes,’ Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GPC, told GP.

‘Whether they hit the target or not isn’t something that we should be too worried about. The important thing is ensuring that patients with dementia get the right treatment.’

Dr Vautrey said that investment into dementia should go towards patient care rather than incentives for diagnosis.

‘One of our concerns has been that any investment related to this area should go towards memory clinics and social care services to support people with dementia and their carers instead,’ he said.

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