Doctors claim diagnosing dementia in the early stages is rendered pointless if people aren’t then given the necessary help and support
During the British Medical Association (BMA)’s annual meeting today, GPs said government ministers may have succeeded in hitting dementia diagnosis rate “targets” over the last few years, but that this was pointless if the people who were diagnosed were then left alone and unsupported after diagnosis.
Leading doctors from all over the country backed a motion which said diagnosis without support was “pointless”. They accused the government of being too focused on reaching targets for diagnosis rates, including the controversial cash for diagnoses schemes which gave GPs bonus payments for each person diagnosed with dementia, instead of ensuring services could support people once a diagnosis had been made.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA GP committee said:
‘GPs have been really frustrated that politicians appear to have been doing something, by getting GPs to tick boxes, and missing the real point which is what patients are wanting, which is fundamental support.
‘We’re really irritated when those services are not only not there, or seem to be disappearing, but are being undermined in many ways by various social services cuts.’
Dr Gary Wannan, chairman of the BMA’s community care committee added:
‘As a doctor you feel very responsible in giving a diagnosis, and you want to make sure in giving anyone a diagnosis, it’s going to be to their benefit. There’s no point in giving someone a label, but then not being able to provide support.’
During the meeting, doctors said too many patients were left in a state of limbo, waiting too long to see specialists or get any real support from social services.
‘You would never tolerate it in any other area of medicine,’ says Dr Vautrey. ‘If you were to diagnose someone with cancer, you wouldn’t say, “Well, sorry, but we’re not going to treat your cancer”.’
The doctors claim that they’re not suggesting patients receive no diagnosis, but that there needs to be a move towards improved services to be put in place so help can be given straight away.
However, Jeremy Hughes, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society found the motion to be disappointing:
‘There is still a desperate lack of support for people with dementia and this will only serve to make it worse by masking the need.
‘To deny someone a diagnosis on this basis also doesn’t take away the fact they are experiencing debilitating symptoms – just without a name for them.’
For ideas on what to do after a dementia diagnosis, click here.