An online learning programme for GPs is being launched by Alzheimer's Society and BMJ Learning, the medical education division of the BMJ Group.
The charity has revealed that just 37 per cent of GPs say they have received sufficient basic training on dementia.
Alzheimer's Society carried out a survey of 382 GPs, which also found that 71 per cent wished to learn more about dementia online. 75 per cent of GPs said they specifically wanted to know more about the management of behavioural symptoms of dementia. The free programme, available at learning.bmj.com, includes sections on early diagnosis and non-drug treatments for behavioural symptoms such as hobbies, social interaction and music.
The survey was part of an evaluation of Alzheimer's Society's 'Worried about your memory?' campaign, which encourages GPs to display its campaign leaflets prominently in an effort to increase diagnosis. The leaflets encourage anyone concerned about their memory to speak to their doctor and contact the charity.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society, said:
'Currently, only 43 per cent of people with dementia get a formal diagnosis. This could be for several reasons including stigma and lack of awareness in the general public, as well as people not visiting their doctor. We need to support GPs as much as possible as they have a vital role to play in diagnosing and supporting people with the condition, which is why we are very excited to launch this online learning tool.
'Alzheimer's Society is also on hand to signpost GPs to additional support in the assessment of people with memory problems, as well as the management of dementia. We also offer information about services and support to those who have received or are awaiting a diagnosis, and their families.'
Dr Kieran Walsh, Editor of BMJ Learning said:
'This initiative reflects our continuing commitment to helping doctors learn and develop the skills they need to provide high quality patient care. We welcome the partnership with Alzheimer's Society and we are confident that it will equip clinicians with the knowledge and skills to make the best treatment decisions for their patients, every time.'
Dr Alex Turnbull, a GP from Wigan, said:
'Having a diagnosis of dementia as early as possible is really important, allowing people to plan for the future as well as access support and potential treatments. But it is also vital that as GPs, we get the support and information we need to help people to the best of our ability. This online learning tool is a great new resource which should help empower GPs to achieve that.'
The survey, which was funded by Alzheimer's Society's partner Lilly, also found:
- When asked what the barriers to diagnosis were, 65 per cent of GPs said 'many people with dementia do not present to General Practice'. 66 per cent said 'the stigma attached to dementia'
- 88 per cent of GPs agreed there were benefits to an early diagnosis of dementia
Those GPs that agreed there were benefits to an early diagnosis said these included:
- Giving you 'time to plan for the future' (84 per cent)
- 'Access to treatments' (78 per cent)
- 'Helping to improve quality of life' (74 per cent)
- 'Access to care pathways' (69 per cent)