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Managers told to tackle dementia drug ‘overuse’ by GPs

By Christian Duffin

GPs face a renewed crackdown on their use of antipsychotics for patients with dementia, as the Department of Health ratchets up the pressure on NHS managers to offer ‘alternatives to medication’.

National dementia champion Sir Ian Carruthers has written a joint letter with the Alzheimer’s Society to all Strategic Health Authorities in England, calling on them to undertake ‘local audits of current practice’ in GP prescribing and prescribing in care homes, as well as secondary care.

Sir Ian, also chief executive of NHS South West, reminded SHAs that reducing ‘inappropriate’ prescribing of antipsychotic drugs for people with dementia is one of four key priorities in the National Dementia Strategy, and that greater use of non-pharmacological interventions should be considered.

All PCTs and SHAs have to provide a progress report, outlining the improvements they have made in reducing antipsychotic prescribing by GPs, to the care services minister Paul Burstow in November.

The letter states: ‘There is significant overuse of antipsychotic medication impacting on patient safety, quality of life and outcomes and that in many cases, non-pharmacological approaches would be preferable.’

‘The Department of Health is also separately undertaking work to identify the productivity improvements associated with reducing inappropriate prescribing.

It also recommends services are commissioned that allow GPs to ‘deliver alternatives to medication for people with dementia exhibiting behavioural and psychological symptoms.’

It came as the Department of Health launched a new £1.2 million public awareness campaign, encouraging older people who are concerned about the memory or any related symptoms to contact their GP.

Attend the Mental Health Forum 2012