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Dementia screening DES ‘contradicts NICE’ and causes harm

The dementia case-finding DES is unsupported by evidence and is contradictory to NICE and National Screening Committee policy, the BMA has said.

The official BMA submission to the consultation identifies four areas of concern with Government proposals to launch a new DES for practices to assess all at-risk patients for signs of dementia.

It says that the new DES is not supported by evidence and directly contradicts NICE and National Screening Committee policy, will find a number of ‘false-positives’, fails to focus on the changes that would generate the greatest benefits and it will increases GP workload.

It said: ‘Dementia does not meet widely accepted criteria for screening programmes. Indeed, the 2006 NICE clinical guidelines on supporting people with dementia clearly states that “general population screening for dementia should not be undertaken”. The National Screening Committee has also specifically recommended against screening for Alzheimers.’

‘Although there are advantages of receiving a formal diagnosis of dementia before the disease becomes acute, patients may have a great deal to lose as they have to come to terms with a diagnosis at a point where they may still be functioning quite well,’ it added.

The BMA was also concerned that screening shifted the focus away from managing the condition. It said: ‘It would make eminent sense to improve these services and reduce the waiting time before increasing the number of people who are referred to them.

‘We believe a reasonable assessment of a patient in an at risk group would take at least 30 minutes, and quite possibly longer, for patients with learning disabilities. Without additional resources, these assessments would have a serious impact on the time available for the care of other patients.’


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