Extend GP training to boost dementia skills

GP training should be extended to include sufficient training on treating dementia, according to a report by an influential group of MPs and peers.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia said the training programme should be lengthened in line with other specialties because GPs lack the confidence and skills to effectively treat dementia. The group also recommended the introduction of ongoing specialist community training.

Dementia treatment cost an estimated £20billion in 2010 and the figure is expected to reach £27billion by 2018. But fewer than half of those with the condition are diagnosed, leaving many people to struggle without much-needed support, the report says.

The report concluded: "The confidence and skills of some general practitioners in recognising dementia continues to be inadequate. Increasing the length of GP training so that it is equivalent to other specialisms would allow for improved coverage of dementia within the GP curriculum."

Local areas should also consider how best to develop ongoing training, the report goes on to say, suggesting "brief targeted sessions run by specialist dementia services at GP practices". Such interventions may prove extremely helpful for GPs as they take on new commissioning responsibilities.

Diagnosis should not be an end in itself, says the report, which points out that the evidence shows that people with dementia benefit from both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. The report also called for more funding in dementia care, particularly in community services.