Dementia - a sign of the times
Most people recognise that we are living longer, in particular because of the controversy over increased pension contributions and a stretched health service. Some diseases are becoming more common as a consequence of the increasing elderly population, adding further to the economic, social and medical pressures that we are witnessing in society. Dementia is one such example, with the incidence having risen in recent years and numbers looking likely to continue to climb. Many people reading this article may be personally affected or will have families and friends who are sufferers. It is a distressing condition that is quite rightly gaining attention.
Not surprisingly, it has been detected by the radar of politicians and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia has made some comment on the issue. According to the univadis GP News service, they are saying that "GP training, improved access to memory clinics and a public campaign for awareness are necessary to improve the diagnosis of dementia in the UK" (click here).
The article goes on to report: "Of concern, around 40% of GPs stated they had undergone little or no training on dementia care since medical school." This may come as no great surprise to us. One solution is to extend GP training to allow greater focus on this specialty, but that will still take time to filter through. Meanwhile the current GP workforce need help and support.
Of course it is not just GPs that will need to up their game, something MPs recognised. The public will have to better educated to present earlier, while more funding will be needed for support services. However, what we also need is a better understanding of the problem and a better production line of therapies and medical interventions. This calls for more research, which again costs a lot of money, and while private enterprise will be interested in developing drugs and other therapies, we still need more information from basic scientific research, which usually requires public funding and support.
To put the impact of dementia into perspective, read this collection of fascinating statistics about the condition (click here). According to this, "the financial cost of dementia to the UK will be over £23 billion in 2012". That is a staggering figure, but behind it lies a huge clinical problem that is only likely to grow bigger. We need a solution fast.
Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief Univadis
By Dr Harry Brown