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Dementia – putting an end to the postcode lottery

Posted: 19/09/2017

September 2017 will mark the fifth World Alzheimer’s Month, a campaign to raise awareness and challenge the stigma of the most common form of dementia.

In March 2017 dementia care was identified by NHS England as one of six vital clinical priorities. As a result, independent panels have been established to support and improve Clinical Commissioning Groups, which have responsibility for planning and commissioning health care services for their local area. The Clinical Commissioning Group Improvement and Assessment Framework (CCG IAF) conducted a review of dementia care provided by CCGs across the UK, awarding ratings from inadequate to outstanding.

The report was published in July 2017 and highlighted that some CCGs have improved in relation to their dementia diagnosis rates and care plans. However, a number have dropped, in some cases by two ratings. Overall, nearly 50% of CCGs were ranked inadequate or requiring improvement.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, who chaired the dementia CCG IAF panel, said: “While we welcome the improvements made by some CCGs, these figures only paint half the picture. This spotlight on dementia has helped around a third of CCGs to improve their support to people with dementia, changing the lives of thousands who might have gone without proper care before. However, it is worrying to see that almost half of all CCGs are delivering inadequate care and support, or that which requires improvement, and that 14% have actually become worse in the last year.

“These CCGs need to be held to account, and we will be actively approaching them to offer help to improve through our GP training programme and advice on redesigning care and referrals pathways. Sharing learnings and best practice of those making the biggest improvements with those performing less well is absolutely key here.”

NHS England has implemented a dementia support offering to all CCGs which recognises that varying levels of assistance are required across the country to maintain all CCGs to the same standard. This demonstrates a national effort to learn from past mistakes, raise the standard of care for dementia and put an end to the postcode lottery.

In support of this initiative, the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care also published new recommendations on risk reductions and care interventions.

In its report, the Commission identified nine modifiable risk factors which could prevent 35% of all dementia cases; including hypertension and obesity in mid-life and smoking, depression and physical inactivity in later life. This was compared with 7% of dementia cases being preventable if a cure for the major genetic risk factor could be found.

According to the Lancet Commission, by making positive lifestyle changes and eliminating or reducing these nine risk factors, a dramatic decline in the occurrence of dementia in later life could be achieved. In turn, this would also help to alleviate increasing pressures on limited social care resources.

The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches regularly deals with a variety of delay in diagnosis claims and claims arising out of a failure to implement appropriate care plans for elderly individuals. If you or your family have been affected by inadequate dementia care, or have concerns about a dementia diagnosis, please contact a member of the team.

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