GPs handed 'dementia diagnosis guide' in NHS England detection drive

GPs in England will be offered a 'dementia toolkit' encouraging them to diagnose more patients with the disease, as part of an NHS England drive to increase detection rates.

The guide aims to help GPs with little experience of dementia (Photo: Paul Starr)
The guide aims to help GPs with little experience of dementia (Photo: Paul Starr)

The information pack, produced with support from the DH and the RCGP, is designed as an educational tool for GPs and practice nurses who have no experience of diagnosing and treating dementia.

It encourages GPs to 'build up their capabilities to assess, detect (including diagnosis) and treat dementia and its common causes'.

Dementia Revealed: What primary care needs to know gives advice on issues such as prevention, identification and diagnosis, tests, when to refer, and what social support is available.

The toolkit says there are 'compelling arguments against delaying or avoiding diagnosis'. 'We are moving away from the concept of protecting the patient from the diagnosis because "nothing can be done", and towards offering "timely" diagnosis to patients,' it said.

'Biggest test'

Launching the 46-page guide on Wednesday, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens reiterated the organisation's target to increase diagnosis rates to 66% by 2015. At present, around 50% are diagnosed, while an estimated 400,000 people living with dementia don't have a formal diagnosis.

Mr Stevens said: 'The biggest test of the NHS is going to be how it treats older citizens and, in particular, how we treat people with dementia. If we get it right for people with dementia, we will get it right for everybody. This challenge is going to increase and it is a challenge in economic terms as well.'

He added: 'We have got to find ways of harnessing expertise and insight about dementia and I believe we are on the cusp of a revolution to the way we help people with long-term conditions.'

In April, Surrey GP Dr Martin Brunet argued in a BMJ article that the NHS England diagnosis target had gone 'largely unchallenged despite its potential to lead to substantial harm' from overdiagnosis.

Dr Brunet said there had been no analysis of the potential harms from such targets, despite the 'obvious danger' that these could lead to the needs of patients being 'made secondary to the requirement to fulfil quotas'.

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