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Doubts cast over common dementia screening tool

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The most widely used primary care dementia screening tool – the Mini Mental State Examination – is less easy to administer and less effective than alternatives, claim Kent University researchers.

They conducted a study that included a review of research evidence, a systematic clinically informed evaluation of the most commonly used screening measures, and a survey of measures employed in primary care in Kent.

They concluded in favour of three less commonly used methods – the General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition, the Memory Impairment Screen and the Mini-Cognitive Assessment Instrument.

Study author Dr Alisoun Milne, a researcher in the field of gerontology, said: ‘Although the MMSE is widely used in the UK, this project identifies the GPCOG, MIS and Mini-Cog as clinically and psychometrically robust and more appropriate for routine use in primary care.

‘The study highlights a need for primary care staff to be offered training and advice on dementia screening including the use of instruments,’ she said.

But Dr Milne added: ‘Whatever the relative weaknesses of the MMSE are, it remains a safe and valid screening instrument.’

International Psychogeriatrics (2008) 20: 911-926

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