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People with dementia let down by health and social care services, say GPs

They are forced to rely on family and friends, who get precious little support either

Caroline White

Monday, 06 July 2015

Patients with dementia don't get anything like the help they need from health and social care services forcing them to rely on their family and friends, reveal the results of an online survey carried out by the Alzheimer’s Society for its latest annual report* published today.

Too many people with dementia are being let down by a system which fails to meet their needs, warns the charity.

More than 1,000 GPs from across the UK provided feedback on the levels of care given to their patients with dementia.

Some 77% felt that state provision was inadequate. And a similar proportion (73%) believed their patients are forced to depend on friends, neighbours, and other unpaid carers for support.

Half of the GPs polled thought the NHS was doing too little to care for people with the condition, while more than two-thirds say patients don't get enough help from adult social services after a diagnosis.

Seven in 10 GPs attributed the lack of support to a shortfall in accessible local services. A further 61% blamed poor collaboration between the NHS and local authorities.

The survey results suggest inadequate access to services may be undermining the national drive to improve rates of dementia diagnosis, as more than one in four GPs (27%) admitted they would be less likely to refer people with suspected dementia for diagnosis if support services are not in place.  

Fewer than one in 10 GPs felt that people with dementia get enough statutory support to deal with loneliness and maintain a good diet, and only around one in four thought enough is being done to tackle anxiety and depression in this group.

Nearly a quarter (23%) said they haven't had sufficient training in dementia to give them a good understanding of how to properly manage a person with the condition.

“Our survey gives a stark view from the doctor's surgery of people with dementia left struggling in the aftermath of a diagnosis. GPs report an endemic and deeply worrying lack of support available from health and social services, with relatives left to pick up the pieces alone,” commented Jeremy Hughes, the charity’s Chief Executive.

'Families and friends are a vital source of support but they mustn't be relied on to do everything. With the number of people with dementia expected to grow to one million by 2021, there is no time to waste. Today's findings reinforce the urgency of putting in place meaningful care and support for all people with dementia,” she said.

Alzheimer's Society is calling for a national action plan to combat dementia over the next five years, including the provision of a dementia adviser for everyone diagnosed with the condition and a single point of contact to help carers navigate the complex health and social care system.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee commented: “GPs are increasingly frustrated that due to excessive cuts to local authority funding, some of the most vulnerable people in our society are not receiving the level of care and support they deserve.”

He added: “The increasing emphasis on diagnosing dementia has not been matched with proper services for patients once they are diagnosed. With an ageing population, and the number of people with dementia set to grow significantly in the next five years, it is vital that sustainable care and support is urgently put in place to help provide the best possible care for those who need it.”

* Dementia 2015: Aiming higher to transform lives. Alzheimer’s Society, 2015

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