Authors: Alice Weatherston
A recent survey of >1000 family doctors in the UK, carried out by the Alzheimer’s Society to investigate care levels for dementia patients, has indicated that over three-quarters (77%) of general practitioners (GPs) believe that patients diagnosed with dementia are reliant on family support for their care. This was primarily attributed to a shortfall in the help available from health and social care services. A further 73% suggested that their patients are forced to rely upon friends, neighbors and other non-family unpaid carers.
Within the survey, two-thirds of GPs indicated that patients were not provided with appropriate provision from adult social services and 70% commented that this lack of support was due to a shortfall in local services that are easily accessible to individuals with the diagnosis.
Approximately half of the GPs that took part in the survey believe that the UK National Health Service is not doing enough for individuals being diagnosed with the condition, despite a national drive to improve dementia diagnosis. A total of 61% believe that lack of cooperation between the National Health Service and social care is a barrier to patients gaining access to support.
Many other key findings were also reported and perhaps most notable was that 27% of GPs expressed that they would be less likely to refer individuals with suspected dementia for diagnosis if support services were not available for them.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society gave his insight: “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. Families and friends are a vital source of support but they mustn’t be relied on to do everything.”
Taking more of a global view, Alzheimer’s Disease International commented: “Today, over 62% of people living with dementia globally are in low and middle income countries. By 2050, this figure will rise to 71%. Our research suggests that only 6% of people in these regions are cared for in care homes, so the vast majority of people living with dementia globally are indeed reliant on unpaid care in the form of families and friends. Dementia is a global issue that demands a global solution.”
The Alzheimer’s Society warns that too many individuals with dementia are currently being let down by a health system failing to meet their needs. “With the number of people with dementia expected to grow to one million by 2021, there is no time to waste. Today’s findings reinforce the urgency of putting in place meaningful care and support for all people with dementia,” concluded Hughes.