GPs urged to screen new care home residents for dementia

GPs should screen all new care home residents for dementia and incorporate checks for the disease into existing care home visits, NHS England's dementia lead has said.

Care home: GPs urged to screen new residents
Care home: GPs urged to screen new residents

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia, said GPs should team up with care homes to ‘double check’ that all residents with the disease are on the QOF register, in addition to screening every new resident.

Diagnosis of dementia is usually carried out by specialist memory services or Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs), but Professor Burns said ‘any clinician who has the appropriate skills can recognise and make a diagnosis’.

GPs should also spend ‘an extra hour or two’ during visits to discuss with the care home manager about the residents in order to glean if any more may have the condition, despite not being formally diagnosed.

Formal diagnosis

GPs can formally diagnose any that do have the condition themselves, without needing to refer them on to specialists, he said.

A large number of the patients are likely to already be more advanced cases of the disease, meaning they will not require specialist advice or tests.

Estimates suggest that up to three quarters of people living in care or residential homes have dementia. GPs have a ‘vital role’ in caring for these patients and ensure they do not ‘slip through the net’, he said.

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