The Prime Minister will launch a pilot project looking at speeding up diagnosis times for dementia patients this week involving an iPad app for GPs to spot memory problems and a mobile diagnosis vehicle.
The pilot – announced as part of the latest stage of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia – is designed to slash diagnosis times for the condition from 18 months to a few months, but has been criticised as ‘pie in the sky’ by GPs.
As part of the project, the Government will establish centres where patients get memory and thought tests while undergoing MRI brain scans; a new iPad app that tests memory and triggers referrals for further tests; and a diagnosis vehicle that will provide dementia assessments outside GP surgeries.
The project is part of the Government-backed Biomedical Catalyst programme, which has awarded £39m to 32 technology healthcare projects.
Trials will take place in Sussex, where there will be a high-tech centre and a mobile community van for GPs to refer to, and a memory clinic in South London. The project will be rolled out further ‘if successful’, a Government statement said.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said: ‘Dementia is arguably the greatest health and care challenge we face in this country and part of that is knowing when a family member or friend is suffering with the condition.
‘With projects like this, we may be able to change that and transform how diagnosis works in the UK and elsewhere.’
But Dr Paul Cundy, a GP in Wimbledon, south London and chair of the GPC’s Information Technology Subcommittee, said this was a ‘pie in the sky’ project.
He said: ‘In the early stages of dementia, it is impossible to differentiate between ordinary memory loss of old age. It is a difficult diagnosis to make and I don’t think an application can make it for you.
‘The second thing is, once you make a diagnosis, there is not much you can do about it. So it is an awful lot of technology being thrown at a problem you cannot solve.’
The funding should be spent on providing social services and home help, he added.