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‘These figures are alarming’

Professor Steve Iliffe gives his reaction to the Pulse investigation into the 150% rise in ‘false alarms’

Pulse’s figures are alarming. If you worked in a cardiology clinic and two in every three people referred had nothing wrong with their heart you’d worry about the clinical reasoning behind the referral.

It’s a consequence of the political drive to identify people with dementia syndrome. These extra referrals suggest to me that memory clinics are functioning as general psychiatric outpatient clinics for the older population – maybe that’s good, but it was not the intention.

Dementia is tricky diagnostically so there is a risk of overdiagnosis – and more people may end up with the mild cognitive impairment label, which means they’ll have to be followed up and will live with a risk factor for dementia, even though most will not develop it.

It’s a good sign that the DES has ended – if it had been a drug it would never have been licensed. I suspect the Government has finally realised that the diagnosis drive has gone too far, and was possibly harmful.

Professor Steve Iliffe is emeritus professor of primary care for older people at University College London and a former GP in north-west London

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  • Politicians and medicine, a recipe for trouble

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