Dementia diagnosis

Dementia diagnosis: ICSs helping but more can still be done, research finds

Integrated care systems (ICSs) are facilitating improvements in dementia diagnosis, according to a new report from The King’s Fund.

The research highlights a number of key levers to improving dementia diagnosis, including:

  • Strengthening relationships between primary care, memory clinics etc.
  • Expanding GP roles – i.e., working to improve dementia diagnosis in care homes
  • Establishing shared delivery plans between key system partners to improve dementia diagnosis
  • Sharing best practice

The report, commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society, comprises data from three NHS cases studies at Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent ICS, Cornwall ICS, and North East London ICS.

Policy director at The King’s Fund, Sally Warren, said: “ICSs were created to bring about whole-system improvements for the treatment of conditions such as dementia, so that people can access high-quality coordinated care.

“It is good to see that there is evidence of this happening in some areas and that ICSs can be effective vehicles to drive this forward when their potential is fully used.”

The King’s Fund highlights that, despite the improvements, more can be done. These opportunities lie in shifting resources towards prevention and early intervention, as well as coordinating GP training in dementia diagnosis.

Early diagnosis would be supported through concerted efforts to destigmatise dementia, which could help remove the barriers to access for particularly underserved communities, thus levelling out health inequalities. More should be done to improve the public’s awareness of support too, according to the researchers.

Although ICSs are helping drive improvements, most of the progress derives from partnerships that predate ICSs being given statutory powers a few years ago, meaning there can still be variations in ownership, leadership, and prioritisation.

The King’s Fund recommends that government and national organisations make sure that policy and accountability arrangements promote local partnership working, which is the root of successful ICSs.

They should also have the headroom to test and scale-up learnings from new approaches to dementia care.

Sally added: “In the long term, ICSs will need further support from the government, NHS England and other national bodies to build capacity for testing new approaches, and spreading successful innovations and ways of working for diagnosis and support, as well as to strengthen collaboration between system partners.”

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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