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Dementia diagnosis has improved due to better collaborative working

Collaborative working through integrated care systems has led to an improvement in dementia diagnosis, according to new research from the King’s Fund.

Collaborative working through integrated care systems has led to an improvement in dementia diagnosis, according to new research from the King’s Fund.

The report, The role of integrated care systems in improving dementia diagnosis, shows that some integrated care systems are beginning to make progress towards their goals of ensuring people using health and care services experience better and more joined-up care, while supporting a shift in focus towards prevention and early intervention. It also explored the enablers and barriers to improving diagnosis rates.

Commissioned by Alzheimer’s Society, it included interviews with people from three integrated care systems case study sites, visits to dementia support services to understand lived experiences, and a roundtable with national and local organisations.

There are 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and this number is expected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040. While there is currently no cure for dementia, an early and accurate diagnosis enables people to access support and potential treatment to manage symptoms better, helping them to maintain their independence and quality of life for longer. It also enables people and their families to plan ahead better, and may help the health and care system save money in the long-term.

Pockets of improvement in dementia diagnosis

The research finds that integrated care systems are helping to create the conditions for better collaboration between different parts of the system and there are pockets of improvements in dementia diagnosis as a result. Key enablers of improvement include efforts to strengthen relationships between primary care, memory clinics and other services, and the introduction of new extended roles for GPs (for example, to improve dementia diagnosis in care homes).

Further improvements, according to the authors, include co-ordinating training opportunities for GPs and other clinicians on dementia diagnosis. In addition, more regular and meaningful engagement with the public would help to destigmatise the condition and unpick the barriers to access experienced by underserved communities, allowing for earlier identification of symptoms and helping to reduce inequalities in diagnosis.

Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said: “Integrated care systems were created to bring about whole-system improvements for the treatment of conditions such as dementia, so that people can access high-quality co-ordinated 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. When integrated care systems partners come together with a shared plan, cross-system leadership, a culture of collaboration, and a goal of addressing inequalities, they can successfully help people to live better and manage their complex health conditions.

“With an ageing population, it is possible that the landscape of dementia diagnosis and care may change significantly over the coming years, and there is a real risk that some integrated care systemss may lack capacity to plan for the future at the same time as responding to immediate pressures. In the long term, integrated care systems 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.”

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