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Would doctors routinely asking older patients about their memory improve dementia outcomes? Yes

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 26 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1780
  1. Jill Rasmussen, general practitioner with special interest in mental health and learning disability
  1. 1East Surrey, Clinical Commissioning Group, Caterham CR3 5QX, UK
  1. jill.Rasmussen{at}

The UK government is planning to introduce incentives for general practitioners to check for dementia in all patients aged 75 and older. Jill Rasmussen says that it will allow earlier support for patients with dementia, but Margaret McCartney (doi:10.1136/bmj.f1745) says that industry has more to gain than patients

Earlier identification of dementia gives patients and their families and carers more opportunity to consider the implications of the diagnosis and to make decisions while the patient can actively participate. Although no preventive or curative treatments are available, we have pharmacological interventions such as cholinesterase inhibitors that can optimise a patient’s capabilities during early dementia, enabling them to play more active roles in society, spend quality time with “near and dear”; and enjoy a better quality of life.1

Many people attribute memory problems to old age. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals are guilty of the same presumption when confronted with an older patient or concerned relative with memory complaints. Timely diagnosis in dementia gives the opportunity to maximise the benefits of current interventions.

Need for better care

The Appraisal of Screening for Alzheimer’s Disease 2009 concluded that “an evidence based routine screening programme for Alzheimer’s disease that will reduce mortality and morbidity is not yet a possibility.” The appraisal also highlights that the UK is …

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