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Lengthen GP training to include dementia

GPs lack confidence and skills to diagnose and treat the condition

Caroline White

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

GP training should be extended to the same length as other specialisms so that it can include sufficient coverage of dementia within the curriculum, concludes a report by an influential group of MPs and peers. Ongoing specialist community training is also needed, it says.

The report, by the All Parliamentary Group on Dementia, says that GPs lack the confidence and appropriate skills to treat dementia, which cost an estimated £20 billion in 2010—a figure that is expected to reach £27 billion by 2018.

But fewer than half those with the condition actually receive a diagnosis, leaving many people struggling without the support they need, says the report.

“The confidence and skills of some general practitioners in recognising dementia continues to be inadequate. Increasing the length of GP training so that it is equivalent to other specialisms would allow for improved coverage of dementia within the GP curriculum,” says the report.

“But local areas should also consider how best to develop ongoing training, for example, brief targeted sessions, run by specialist dementia services at GP practices,” it goes on to say, adding that such interventions may also prove extremely helpful for GPs as they take on new commissioning responsibilities.

Diagnosis should not be an end in itself, says the report, which points out that the evidence shows that people with dementia benefit from both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.

The low priority afforded dementia has also hampered the development of appropriate services for people with the condition, despite the burgeoning numbers of those affected, says the report.

Funds need to be spent much more cost effectively than at present, particularly at in a climate of financial restraint, it says. And it calls for money to be redirected away from acute hospital beds into community services.

“Hospital care is expensive to provide and hospital stays can have a negative impact on the symptoms of a person’s dementia, as well as putting them at risk of complications such as infections and falls,” it says.

Services and resources have focused too much on people with complex needs and those in crisis. To to the exclusion of early intervention and preventive services.

“There is evidence that investing in services for people with lower levels of need can prevent crises and the need for costly, intensive services, such as beds in acute hospitals,” it says, adding that this can improve the wellbeing of those with the condition and their carers as well as saving money.

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