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London doctor survey warning over NHS dementia demand

Conceptual computer artwork showing the brain of an elderly man affected by Alzheimer's disease
Image caption Fewer than one in three GPs in the capital said they were able to diagnose dementia, the report found.

Government reforms of the NHS will not tackle the growing demand from dementia sufferers, a study analysing London services has shown.

The study from the think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found one in three GPs were unable to diagnose the illness.

The Department of Health said it was undertaking an audit of dementia.

But IPPR associate director Rick Muir said: "It is far from clear that changes will rise to the challenge."

The number of people with dementia is expected to soar as the population ages, with more than a million people diagnosed in England by 2021, according to the study.

'Vulnerable elderly'

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said the NHS needs to reform if it is to cope with the growing numbers, and offer support to keep people out of hospital, which would also save money.

But fewer than one in three GPs in the capital said they were able to diagnose dementia or to provide sufficient help for sufferers, the report said.

Dementia diagnosis rates currently stand at about 40%.

The IPPR report, which was launched in conjunction with the City of London Corporation, found particularly poor care for the over-80s and a lack of services for those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Experts behind the study called for stronger links between health and social care to offer people with dementia the best care.

It added that local authorities should retain a role in scrutinising the care that is provided.

Associate director at the think-tank Rick Muir said: "GPs admit that they do not have the skills to deal with this growing care crisis.

'Government priority'

"It is far from clear that changes will rise to the challenge.

"It's essential under the new commissioning framework that both GPs and social care commissioners are held truly accountable.

"If this doesn't happen, many vulnerable elderly people will not get the care they need."

The Department of Health said it was undertaking an audit of dementia services and expected the results to be available in in spring 2012.

Liberal Democrat Health Minister Paul Burstow said: "Dementia is one of the most important issues that we face as our population ages and improving care for people who suffer from dementia is one of this government's priorities.

"We are working hard to increase awareness of dementia through a new public awareness campaign.

"We are also developing a commissioning pack that will help health professionals, including GPs, to improve the quality of services for people with dementia."

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