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Dementia patients forced to rely on family, GPs say

6 July 2015

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Dementia patients are forced to depend on their families for care, the majority (77%) of GPs think.

This lack of support is due to a shortfall in accessible local services, seven-in-10 GPs said, in the Alzheimer’s Society survey of more than 1,000 doctors, released today.

A further 61% say a lack of cooperation between the NHS and social care acts as a barrier to patients getting support.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee deputy chair, said: “GPs are increasingly frustrated that due to excessive cuts to local authority funding, some of the most vulnerable people in our society are not receiving the level of care and support they deserve.

“Difficulty in accessing social care support has become an everyday reality for GPs, patients and carers. Sadly it is not only the case for those diagnosed with dementia, but also affects the large number of people living with long-term conditions or with frail elderly relatives,” he said.

However, there is a further difficulty as 73% of GPs believe patients, families and carers are left confused by the health and social care system. Moreover, 77% of GPs don’t think that they’ve had sufficient dementia training to give them a good understanding of how to manage a person with the condition.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, (pictured) said: “Our survey gives a stark view from the doctor’s surgery of people with dementia left struggling in the aftermath of a diagnosis. GPs report an endemic and deeply worrying lack of support available from health and social services, with relatives left to pick up the pieces alone.”

In its latest annual dementia report released today, Dementia 2015: Aiming higher to transform lives, Alzheimer’s Society is pressing for a national action plan to combat dementia over the next five years.

It recommends that NHS England and local authorities ensure every dementia patient is entitled to a full package of support including a dementia advisor, and there is a single point of contact to help carers navigate the health and social care system.

The report warns that a gathering ‘momentum of change’ will be lost unless statutory and voluntary sector agencies redouble their efforts to improve dementia care.

“The increasing emphasis on diagnosing dementia has not been matched with proper services for patients once they are diagnosed. With an ageing population, and the number of people with dementia set to grow significantly in the next five years, it is vital that sustainable care and support is urgently put in place to help provide the best possible care for those who need it,” Vautrey said.