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GPs to diagnose and care for dementia like other long-term conditions, says Government advisor

GPs need to take on more of the diagnosis and treatment of dementia within primary care in future, as part of a major shift towards managing it in the same way as other long-term conditions, according to a leading Government advisor.

Dr Charles Alessi, Public Health England’s lead on dementia, said policymakers were making ‘long-term’ plans to build the capacity of general practice to diagnose and manage the condition as well as support families and carers.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event on dementia in central London, Dr Alessi told delegates: ‘We are initiating some work with NHS England to really build the capability of general practice, to assist GPs to be able to diagnose dementia in primary care and also initiate treatment when appropriate.

‘That doesn’t mean this supplants memory clinics, but this is an enhancement of the service that already exists, because we know that the numbers who will be developing cognitive impairment is going to increase as we grow older and clearly we need to develop alternative pathways of care.’

Dr Alessi explained: ‘I think we are on a journey in terms of dementia in primary care which is very similar to the journey we embarked on with cancer. At one time cancer was a condition that was wholly the responsibility of secondary care but that has moved over the years to become shared over different parts of the health system.

‘Similarly with dementia there is absolutely no reason why primary care can’t give its contribution around diagnosis and also around after care.’

NHS England’s dementia czar Professor Alistair Burns has previously said he wants to see GPs ‘upskilled’ to be able to take more responsibility for diagnosing and caring for patients with dementia, while the Government’s new Dementia Identification Scheme - launched last month - is rewarding GPs for diagnosing dementia themselves, as well as for diagnoses made in specialist clinics, over the second half of this year.

However, Dr Alessi stressed the plans were ‘long term’ and would not be imposed on GPs.

He told Pulse: ‘This is long-term work – we’re talking about an intention to turn dementia into a mainstream condition, in a similar way that all other long-term conditions are treated.

‘We’re not talking about doing anything over the next two days to impose a system on general practice, that is not what we’re saying.’  

>>>> Clinical Newswire

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Readers' comments (7)

  • This is another one of "GPs are best placed to do......" idea with no real thought through.

    "NHSE to really build capacity" - in how many years? Which bit of GPs emigrating more, retiring more, training places unfilled does he not understand? We are not houses where builders can buy bricks and motar and build them. It takes many years of training and decent working condition to retain GPs.

    I'll be getting old before NHSE can "build" such capacities.

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  • So which current long term condition is going to be taken out of the GP domain to make room for dementia?
    Can we refer all hypertension to cardiology?
    Or perhaps refer all asthma to resp clinic?

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  • Of course we CAN do this. The problem is not our ability it is resources. We are already stretched too thin

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  • Diagnosis and initiate Rx iaw guidelines / guidance - can do. The hole that needs filling is care in the community, which for the majority is no care in the community. This is not the fault of those that bravely struggle in community care, rather the current lack of social care and charitable resources - which always seems to become the GPs problem.

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  • "bo+*&^ks", what is the point of memory clinic and memory nurses. Who will pay for the time we have to spend learing about dementia and its nuances by doing post graduate courses or sitting in with the consultants. This is something no GP can take on and should not be expected to take on either. GPSI's fine, budding GP not on your life.

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  • Perhaps this government advisor ought to get out a bit more. GPs are already dealing with 90% of dementia in the community.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Somebody taught me many years ago that politics is all and only about 'talk'. Nothing more , nothing less.

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