Doctors 'Put Under Pressure' To Diagnose Dementia

New Dementia Targets Are "Abhorrent" Claims GP


The idea of introducing targets for the number of people being diagnosed with dementia is "abhorrent", according to one GP.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Martin Brunet of Surrey suggested that commissioners and practitioners are being put under pressure by the government to make diagnoses.

He wrote: "Medicine depends on a fundamental, unspoken agreement between patients and doctors … the only factor influencing the decision to diagnose should be the best interests of patients."

If doctors are motivated by self interest, the chances of a patient being misdiagnosed are increased and this can cause a great deal of harm. Dr Brunet said that by setting specific targets, the relationship between patients and their GP will be undermined.

He added there has not been any analysis into the possible outcome of enforcing quantitative goals for dementia diagnosis and the concept has remained largely unchallenged to date.

The GP fears that commissioning groups will be keen to avoid being at the bottom of the league table for dementia diagnosis, which could prompt doctors to make incorrect assessments.

This situation has arisen amid claims that people in the UK are not being diagnosed with dementia quickly enough. While this is clearly an issue that requires urgent attention, Dr Brunet feels this new method is severely flawed.

He added that dementia is "big business" and there are many groups that would benefit from a rise in dementia diagnosis.

"[The] needs of patients are made secondary to the requirement to fulfil quotas," the GP concluded.

According to statistics provided by the Alzheimer's Society, there are around 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with one in 14 individuals over the age of 65 currently diagnosed with the condition.

The group stated that officially around 17,000 people develop dementia before they reach retirement age, although in reality this figure could be up to three times higher.

If you or a loved one has suffered due to professional or clinical negligence from a mental health practitioner, or at worst your loved one has died, we can help you to claim compensation. Visit our Mental Health Negligence Claims page for more information.

Expert Opinion
According to the findings from the Alzheimer’s Society there is an increasing number of people in the UK being diagnosed with the Dementia and it is important that there is a system in place to help diagnose the condition as soon as possible to ensure that they have access to the very best care available to them. However, it is also vital that any decisions on care are always made with their best interests at heart.

“Dementia is a serious and debilitating condition for both the patient and their family and they deserve the best possible care.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner