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Dave-ja vu on dementia

The Department of Health press release popped into my inbox yesterday ‘STRICTLY EMBARGOED – NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST BEFORE 0001 THURSDAY 8 NOVEMBER’ and another ‘STRICTLY EMBARGOED’ just to make sure. Exciting.

The Prime Minister was announcing ‘Britain’s biggest ever project’ on recognising the signs of dementia. My journalist’s antennae started to twitch.

There was to be ‘extra support’ for GPs on dementia to better equip them to spot and diagnose dementia. There would be a ‘requirement’ to ask all patients aged between 65 and 74 about their memory as part of every standard health check. A million ‘dementia friends’ were to be recruited.

This definitely looked like a big story and a big change for GPs. The Pulse team started to mobilise.

But wait a minute. Some of this sounded suspiciously familiar? Didn’t we do a story in March about this?

Oh, yes. Speaking at the Dementia 2012 Conference, Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘At their usual five-yearly health check, as well as when they normally see their GP, those at risk will be referred on – just as they would be with a heart problem.’

So let me get this straight – the PM is renouncing the same policy that he announced eight months ago? DH press officer: ‘Er, yes.’

Thanks for the reminder, but my cognition is working just fine thanks.

So what about the ‘extra support’ for GPs? A toolkit to help them know where to refer patients? Just what practices need – another fancy binder to put on a shelf and get dusty.

Surely the real issue is that GPs have very few options to suggest to patients who are diagnosed with dementia – there are no real treatments and memory clinics are few and far between. How is a toolkit going to help with this?

Ah – but there will be a million new ‘dementia friends’ around to help. Well, that is a relief… isn’t it?

Nigel Praities is Pulse’s deputy editor.