GPs will be expected to give patients advice on dementia risk as part of NHS Health Checks, Public Health England has announced.
PHE said GPs should use NHS Health Checks to explain that maintaining a social life, keeping mentally and physically active, as well as stopping smoking can reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Local authorities are expected to incorporate dementia in the programme within the course of the next year.
PHE said this comes as 52% of adults list dementia as one of their top health concerns but only 2% are aware of all the actions they can take to cut their risk.
However, GPs expressed concern about the efficacy and plausibility of the move.
Public health minister Steve Brine said: ‘Early detection and prevention are vital to the health of our nation and our programmes in this area are among the most ambitious in the world.
‘Our aim is to keep everyone as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, which is why we are introducing advice on dementia prevention as part of our free Health Checks.’
But Dr John Ashcroft, a GP in Derbyshire, said: ‘Giving people advice on their lifestyle with the idea that it will reduce their risk of dementia, well there’s no evidence for this making a difference at all.
‘It sounds like it’s politically driven, there’s no evidence base behind any of this.’
Liverpool LMC secretary Dr Rob Barnett said: ‘The principle behind it sounds fantastic, the difficulty is doing it.
‘The resources that practice are given for undertaking these health checks isn’t very great and like everything else, unless the resources are there for staff, then it becomes more and more problematic.’
The news comes as the NHS Health Check programme has been dogged by poor uptake in recent years, and the latest data reveals that only 44% of eligible patients had a health check during the last five years.
This falls well below the cost effective target of 70-75% and comes despite 90% of eligible patients receiving an invitation to the check.
PHE deputy chief nurse Jamie Waterall, national lead for cardiovascular disease prevention, said they have set up a special group with a specific brief to ‘tackle the variation across local authorities in uptake numbers’.
He said: ‘This will include working via the regional PHE centres and the NHS Health Check Local Implementation National Forum…
‘In addition, we are also working with the PHE Behavioural Insights team and marketing and have piloted approaches to improve uptake including digital marketing and texting phone reminders, which have proved effective and are being rolled out.’
The news comes as GPs in Greater Manchester were recently told they must prove practice staff carrying out health checks are properly trained, or face losing funding for the service.
Why PHE wants GPs to advice patients about dementia
PHE says over 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK but there is little public understanding of how it is possible to reduce the risk.
It said that 52% of adults name dementia as one of their top three health worries, but 28% of these have no awareness of any of the risks factors and only 2% are aware of all the things they can do to reduce the risk.
It added that one third of dementia cases may be prevented by improved lifestyle choices.
According to the body, some local authorities have begun to implement dementia risk as part of NHS Health Checks already, while others will see it included over the next 12 months.