Hundreds of thousands of people with dementia in the UK are going under the radar as a lack of GP training in recognising the condition means they are not being diagnosed and treated.
Just 37% of GPs said they have received sufficient basic training in dementia, while 75% said they wanted to know more about the management of behavioural symptoms associated with the condition, findings of a survey* by The Alzheimer’s Society have revealed.
An estimated 800,000 people are thought to be living with dementia in the UK, and yet just 43% of these have received a formal diagnosis of their condition.
The financial cost of the disease to the National Health Service, local authorities and families is a whopping £23 billion a year, and this is expected to hit £27 billion in just six years.
The findings of the survey are particularly pertinent given that an early diagnosis of the disease can not only help decelerate mental decline, but can also save the taxpayer thousands of pounds.
While there are no therapies available offering a cure for dementia, medicines – such as Pfizer’s Aricept and Lundbeck's Ebixa - are available to help improve symptoms or temporarily slow down disease progression in some patients.
“Having a diagnosis of dementia as early as possible is really important, allowing people to plan for the future as well as access support and potential treatments,” said Alex Turnbull, a GP from Wigan.
“But it is also vital that as GPs, we get the support and information we need to help people to the best of our ability,” he stressed.
To that end, the charity and BMJ Learning have launched a free online learning programme for GPs, available at learning.bmj.com, which is designed to help doctors with diagnosing and treating the condition.
*The survey was part of an evaluation of Alzheimer's Society's 'Worried about your memory?' campaign, which is funded by Eli Lilly.