Dementia sufferers are not being provided with specialist health care services and are instead relying on GPs to support them, according to new research by Marie Curie. The new report, titled Living and Dying with Advanced Dementia, has discovered that those in the later stages of the condition have little contact with specialist care providers such as palliative, geriatric or mental health services.
The research, conducted by Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department at University College London, found that 96% of those with advanced dementia saw their GP in the last month of their life, rather than any other, more specialist, medical professional.
Amanda Cheesley of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘It is concerning that patients with end stage dementia are not accessing specialist services. This is particularly important in order that care staff and their patients receive the support from specialist nurses with the knowledge and skills to care for people as they deteriorate at the end of their life.’
The report concludes that current health care systems are not equipped to deal with those suffering from advanced dementia and that more needs to be done to enable those with the condition to access the services they need.
Worryingly, dementia is now the leading cause of death in the UK (overtaking heart disease last year) and accounted for 11.6% of all recorded deaths in 2016.
Scott Sinclair, Head of Policy and Public Affairs in England for Marie Curie, said: ‘We’ve known for some time that people with dementia are less likely to have access to specialist care. It is distressing to see that people with dementia and their families are experiencing this inequity.’
The Alzheimer’s Society argues that this problem is ever more significant given the rising number of dementia cases. If current trends continue, the number of people suffering from dementia will hit more than double to 2 million by 2050.
Dr Liz Sampson of Marie Curie’s Palliative Care Research Department, said: ‘The system isn’t currently fit for purpose. We need to see more resources provided in the community and nursing home staff receiving more support from external healthcare services.’