The health secretary has vowed to ‘change GPs minds’ over the value of diagnosing dementia earlier, by tasking the Department of Health to improve the services offered by the NHS.
Jeremy Hunt said some GPs think diagnosing dementia is ‘pointless’ and that it will not make a difference, but that this is a ‘misconception’ that he wants to change.
Taking questions on health in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hunt was asked by Mark Menzies, Conservative MP for Fylde, what steps he is taking to support GPs in achieving his ambitious targets for dementia diagnosis.
He responded: ‘There is a misconception amongst some GPs that a dementia diagnosis is pointless and can’t make a difference when we know that in fact the correct medicines can help between one-in-three and one-in-four of people who have the condition.’
However he also conceded that there is currently a lack of support available for patients who have received a dementia diagnosis.
Mr Hunt added: ‘But some GPs also have a point when they are concerned that it is very, very difficult to access good services for people who have dementia.
‘So the way that we will change GPs’ minds is for them to appreciate that something will change if someone gets a dementia diagnosis and that is the big challenge that this ministerial team has set the Department.’
He said a key priority to achieve in England, learning from good practice in for example Scotland, is to have a ‘proper integrated care plan’.
Dr Martin Brunet, a GP in Surrey who led a campaign against the dementia case-finding DES that is due to be introduced this year, said: ‘I think [Jeremy Hunt] has a misconception of GP concern over dementia screening, or case-finding.
‘I don’t think any GPs think that diagnosis is pointless but that we should leave to the patient to decide when is the right time for diagnosis. I am glad that he has conceded that there is a lack of support available for patients receiving a diagnosis.
‘I also welcome what he says about medication helping between one-in-three and one-in-four dementia patients because I don’t dispute that. Earlier he said it could stave off symptoms for several years. That I disagree with.’