By Lilian Anekwe
PCTs are trying to implement the Government’s national dementia strategy on the cheap by piling pressure on GPs to improve rates of diagnosis without investing in the promised network of memory clinics, a Pulse investigation shows.
The National Dementia Strategy – published in February last year with £150m of funding allocated to trusts – included a recommendation to establish a memory clinic in every PCT.
But our investigation shows that only a handful of trusts plan to do so, including NHS Birmingham East and North, NHS West Sussex and NHS Oxfordshire.
Others are simply opting to focus on primary care dementia registers. For example, NHS West Kent aims to reduce practice variation in the number of patients on registers – identified in an audit it carried out. Similarly NHS North of Tyne plans to increase the numbers on GP dementia registers.
NHS Devon says its GP performance data in dementia is ‘not accurate’ and so plans to review numbers. NHS Kirklees’ action plan states the trust will ’empower people to report symptoms earlier and monitor through the GP register’.
NHS East Riding of Yorkshire has also developed a local enhanced service for dementia care to tackle ‘low levels of recording of dementia within primary care’.
But many trusts have still not published their action plans on how to implement the strategy – due on 31 March – and some deny being allocated any funding for dementia. A spokesperson for NHS Blackburn with Darwen told Pulse: ‘We are not aware of a funding allocation’.
An audit of how PCTs have spent the dementia strategy money – commissioned by the Department of Heatlh – has not been published.
But a recent BMA investigation found many PCTs either could not explain how funding had been allocated, or the money had not been ringfenced and had been diverted into other areas.
Dr Helena McKeown, a GP in Salisbury and chair of the BMA’s committee on community care, told Pulse: ‘The money to implement at least some of the ambitious aims laid out in the dementia strategy seems to have been subsumed by PCTs into their baselines.’
‘I’m gravely concerned that some have neglected to spend moderate but precious sums on hands-on dementia services but have opted to scrutinise QOF dementia indicators. So much for the “high-trust, low bureauracy” nGMS contract.’
• NHS Norwich – Monitoring will take place to ensure GP practices increasingly and routinely screen patients with known risk factors for dementia, such as coronary heart disease and stroke, during their annual review to improve early diagnosis
• NHS WarrPCTs’ plans for dementia care The dementia strategy aimed to improve early diagnosis