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Urgent dementia review ordered

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The government has ordered an immediate review of the prescribing and use of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia, under new plans to improve quality of care.

Junior health minister Ivan Lewis last week launched a consultation on a national dementia strategy for England, which aims to ensure early diagnosis and intervention, raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with the condition.

He said the prescribing review, which will run ahead of the strategy itself, was ‘urgently needed’. It follows the publication in April of UK research, which suggested antipsychotics had limited benefits for most patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The strategy proposals also include appointing named dementia care advisers as a single point of contact for patients throughout diagnosis and treatment, and the establishment of more ‘memory clinics’ where patients can receive advice and learn techniques for improving their memory.

In addition, care homes and acute hospitals could be asked to identify a key staff member for managing patients with dementia.

Jonathan Webster, nurse consultant for older people at University College London Hospital, said: ‘I have seen first-hand how successful services such as memory clinics can be. This long overdue strategy brings dementia to the fore and strengthens the case for commissioning services like these for people with dementia.

‘But we also need to look at dementia care within the broader context of the long-term conditions agenda, and ensure that people with dementia have access to the holistic care provided by specialist older people’s nurses,’ he added.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter called for more specialist dementia nurses to be introduced. ‘We particularly support the expansion of the innovative Admiral Nurses scheme,’ he said.

The consultation period is due to end on 11 September, with the strategy expected to be published in October.

Around 570,000 people have dementia in England – 700,000 in the whole of the UK – but this is expected to more than double to 1.4 million over the next 30 years.

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