Poorly-trained GPs fail to spot dementia: Patients waiting five years or more for diagnosis Some GPs say they have only been given basic training about illnessReport states that without proper diagnosis thousands are left feeling 'isolated'
Sophie Borland Health Reporter
23:36 GMT, 2 July 2012
23:38 GMT, 2 July 2012
Family doctors are failing to spot dementia in the elderly because their training is so inadequate, MPs warn today.
Some GPs admit they have only ever been given basic teaching about the illness at medical school – some 20 or 30 years ago.
Others are reluctant to diagnose patients with dementia, even when they are showing symptoms, as they assume their patients would rather not know.
Issue: Family doctors are failing to spot dementia in the elderly because their training is so inadequate, MPs warn today
It is estimated that some 800,000 people have dementia. However, only 40 per cent are ever properly diagnosed and referred for treatment.
A report by MPs today warns that without a proper diagnosis, thousands of sufferers and their families are being left 'isolated' and denied the best possible care.
It points out that patients are routinely having to wait five years or longer to be told they have the illness after first noticing symptoms.
But this is not just because of the poor training of doctors. Many of the elderly who have memory problems are too frightened to go to their doctor for fear of what they might find out.
The report by the All Parliamentary Group for Dementia warns that this is partly due to the failings of GP services.
A survey of 90 family doctors carried out for the report found that 40 per cent had only ever been given 'basic' or 'inadequate' training on how to diagnose the illness.
It also found that patients are routinely having to wait a year for an appointment at a memory clinic where tests are carried out to diagnose the illness.
Concerning: It is thought only 40 per cent of people in the UK are properly diagnosed and given
Baroness Sally Greengross, the chairman of the all parliamentary group, said: 'This is quite wrong.
'If you are diagnosed early, you can get the right treatment and care that enable you the best quality of life.
'There is altogether too little training. It's outrageous that GPs not adequately trained given the numbers of people with dementia now, and those who are going to get it in future.
'There is not enough time dedicated to older people generally – particularly those with dementia. People are in a state of absolute panic when they think they have dementia.
'We urgently need to make early diagnosis for people with dementia a priority and memory services are a key part of this.'
The report is also calling for compulsory dementia training for family doctors to ensure that they can firstly diagnose patients, and then properly look after them.
The report's findings were based on a survey of 1,075 GPs, nurses, dementia patients and their carers which asked about their experiences of care.
Of the 90 GPs involved, 40 per cent said their knowledge of dementia was either 'adequate' or 'poor'.
A handful – 7 per cent – said it was not important that patients were given a diagnosis. This may well be because the individual doctors do not think anything can be done.
Jeremy Hughes, the chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'What we are hearing today is that many people are being let down by services that are meant to be helping them get a timely dementia diagnosis.
'By ensuring people have the support they need at the time they need it we can also save money, as fewer people will need costly and distressing crisis care.'