NHS reforms put dementia care at risk

The government's NHS overhaul could put dementia care at risk because of gaps in GPs' knowledge about the condition, a report warned today.

The government’s NHS overhaul could put dementia care at risk because of gaps in GPs’ knowledge about the condition, a report warned today.

Consortia of GPs are to take responsibility for health commissioning from primary care trusts in 2013.

However, less than one-third of family doctors in London say they are able to diagnose dementia or provide enough help for sufferers, the study on dementia care in the capital by the Institute for Public Policy Research revealed.

This failure leads to people with the condition falling into crisis more quickly and costs more in the long term, it found.

With GPs due to take on commissioning responsibilities, the report warned that there were risks they may not be convinced of the need to invest in early intervention approaches to dementia care, despite the benefits.

The report also identified a lack of integration between health and social care, particularly poor services for the over-80s and a dearth of support for people from ethnic minorities. This is at a time when the number of over-80s from ethnic minorities in London is set to treble over the next 20 years.

“The extent and the quality of dementia care in London is clearly inadequate – particularly for the over-80s and for London’s fast-growing population of elderly people from ethnic minorities,” said Rick Muir, associate director at IPPR. “At the same time, GPs admit that they do not have the skills to deal with this growing care crisis.”

He said the government’s health reforms, which are being introduced through the Health and Social Care Bill, could make things worse unless safeguards were introduced urgently.

The report’s recommendations included that:

• GPs need to receive early and continuing training in dementia, particularly in understanding the needs of hard-to-reach groups and in palliative care.

• GP consortia should be judged on the quality of dementia care they commission by the NHS Commissioning Board, which will have overall responsibility for the health service.

• Dementia should be a priority for health and well-being boards, which will be set up under the Bill to oversee local health and social care provision.

• Dementia advice services should be co-located in GPs’ surgeries to provide doctors with extra support in signposting people to services.

The report was commissioned by the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust.

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