Many people with dementia are facing “barriers” to diagnosis and treatment at primary care level, according to a new Parliamentary report.
Only two-fifths of people with dementia in England are formally diagnosed, and referrals to memory clinics show “shocking variations”.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia said that GPs often blocked access to support services by failing to make a diagnosis or referral.
The report echoes the recent statement by the National Audit Office that diabetes care is suffering through a shortage of GP referrals.
The ‘national dementia challenge’ launched by David Cameron in March called for early diagnosis and intervention to become the norm.
The new NHS Outcomes Framework notes that an indicator “needs to be developed” for “enhancing the quality of life for people with dementia”.
However, the Parliamentary report found that waits for referrals to memory services ranged from a few weeks to over a year, averaging three months – and many people received no support following diagnosis.
The proportion of people with dementia receiving a diagnosis was estimated as 41% in England – better than Wales (37.5%) but worse than Scotland (64.5%) or Northern Ireland (61.5%).
The report called for “major improvements” to local services, and for a national register to raise standards of dementia care.
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow stated: “We are driving forward measures to improve the quality of memory services, including work to increase the number of accredited memory services and work to help local commissioners map the need in their area.”
“It is quite clear that every part of the health service is going to have to adapt to the needs of this growing group of patients – from the GP surgery to the hospital ward,” commented Jo Webber, Deputy Policy Director, NHS Confederation.