Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Monday, 22 December 2008

All GPs to get dementia training

The number of dementia patients in the UK is predicted to double

All NHS GPs in England are to be trained to spot the early symptoms of dementia, under government plans.

Ministers also want to set up "memory clinics" to help the growing number of patients live as normally as possible.

About 700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, a total that is expected to double or triple.

The Department of Health says it will ensure appropriate training is provided to health professionals and create more chances for them to specialise.

It will be interesting to find out how they are going to train people to spot the early signs of Alzheimer's disease because that is very difficult
Dr Frank Gunn-Moore
St Andrews University

A spokeswoman said: "We want to make sure that every GP is trained to spot the first signs of dementia, and to refer patients on to specialists.

"The Department of Health will work with all relevant medical and nursing organisations - including the Royal College of GPs, Skills for Care and the NHS - to make sure that appropriate training is provided for medical students.

Social problem

"We will create opportunities for post-graduate education and training in dementia."

Care Services Minister Phil Hope told the Daily Mail a national dementia strategy, to be launched next month, could save nearly 1bn, while providing better care.

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He said: "As well as national training for GPs, we'd like to see memory clinics in every town, where people can go for treatment and support to help them live their life as normally as possible."

Memory clinics offer expert assessment, support, information and advice to those with memory problems and their carers.

These services could be provided by a range of professionals, from geriatricians and psychiatrists to local GPs with a specialist interest, and could involve the voluntary sector, he added.

A 2007 report from the National Audit Office said 69% of GPs in England had access to local a memory service to which they could refer patients.

Only 31% of GPs felt they had enough training to diagnose and manage the disease themselves.

Family GP, Dr Rosemary Leonard, said memory clinics are important for encouraging medical staff to liaise with social services because dementia is a social problem as well as a medical one.

She added: "One of the big problems in the early stages is that a lot of people with dementia cover it up... and although some will come to the surgery, far more often it's relatives who ring us up.

"I would encourage relatives if they are worried to contact their GP."

Post mortem

Dr Frank Gunn-Moore, a senior lecturer in neurobiology at St Andrews University who specialises in research for Alzheimer's diagnoses and treatment, welcomed the fact that the government was making dementia a higher priority.

However, he warned that differentiating dementia from normal ageing could be difficult. Often dementia was only diagnosed after other possibilities had been ruled out, and could only be definitively confirmed at a post mortem.

He said: "It will be interesting to find out how they are going to train people to spot the early signs of Alzheimer's disease because that is very difficult."

According to the Alzheimer's Research Trust 163,000 new cases of dementia occur in England and Wales each year - amounting to one every 3.2 minutes.

It says that unless treatments are found the number of people with cognitive impairment who will be placed in institutions will rise by more than 63% from 224,000 in 1998 to 365,000 in 2031.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "This is a much-needed move, as most dementia cases still go undiagnosed.

"Unfortunately dementia research is still severely underfunded, receiving eight times less government research funding than cancer. If we don't act now on research, dementia will cost the UK economy 50 billion annually within 30 years."

Neil Hunt, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Whilst today's announcement contains good news, actions speak louder than words and there is an urgent need for investment in dementia to make these plans a reality."

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Medical News Today Investment In GP Training And Memory Clinics For Those With Dementia - Response By Charity "For Dementia", UK - 23 hrs ago
Sky News Dementia Training For GPs - 37 hrs ago
Telegraph Memory clinics for Alzheimer's patients - 39 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Dementia: GPs will be trained to spot signs - 40 hrs ago GPs to receive dementia training - 42 hrs ago

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