GPC reiterates dementia DES concerns after rise in diagnoses

The Dementia Identification Scheme enhanced service is 'not helpful' in terms of improving patient care, the GPC has warned, after data emerged suggesting it has led to a rise in diagnoses.

Dr Richard Vautrey: dementia DES concerns (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Richard Vautrey: dementia DES concerns (Photo: JH Lancy)

Data released on Tuesday showed that dementia diagnoses are on the rise, with around 35,000 more people being added to QOF dementia registers since the DES was introduced in October.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GP he believed that the scheme was encouraging GPs to give patients with existing problems a formal diagnosis rather than identify new at-risk patients.

‘In many ways, it’s more to do with the way that practices have been reviewing codes, so patients they have known about with memory problems are being given a formal diagnosis of dementia,’ he said.

‘But equally, there’s been a big focus on this area, so everyone has been more attuned to identifying patients and making an appropriate diagnosis.’

Ongoing concerns

The GPC expressed concerns about the scheme after its launch, saying that ‘chasing government targets’ could undermine the doctor-patient relationship.

‘We continue to have our concerns about the inappropriate way the enhanced service was framed. I don’t think that has been particularly helpful,’ he said.

‘The wider focus on providing information about diagnostic rates to practices has probably been more useful.’

The scheme is running until the end of March 2015, when NHS England hopes that 67% of patients with dementia will have received an official diagnosis.

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England's National Clinical Director for Dementia, said:  'Awareness of dementia is at its highest and we believe that timely diagnosis of dementia allows people to access the emotional, practical and financial support that brings.'

'We want it to be normal to talk about memory problems and to encourage people to come forward for an assessment if they or their families have concerns.'

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