One in six dementia patients in the North were not reviewed by their GP for over a year.
Belfast-based news and analysis website The Detail has found that more than 2,000 patients diagnosed with dementia did not have a face-to-face medical review by their family doctor for at least 15 months.
The Stormont Department of Health data is recorded by doctors under a Quality of Outcomes Framework (QOF), which is used to plan for the care and support of the 13,600 people diagnosed with dementia in Northern Ireland. An examination of the data for 2015/2016 showed 2,139 dementia patients were not reviewed by their GP for over a year.
It is estimated that a further 7,000 people in Northern Ireland remain undiagnosed and untreated for dementia.
The Department of Health said it was not mandatory for doctors to review dementia patients within 15 months but confirmed that GPs receive a government payment under the QOF for reviewing between 55 per cent and 70 per cent of dementia patients within this timeframe. GPs were paid £30 million in 2015/2016 under the QOF. The majority of the 347 GPs in Northern Ireland met the maximum threshold, with just seven GPs falling below 70 per cent.
Royal College of General Practitioners
said there are many reasons why a patient may not have been reviewed.
“It could relate to the degree of dementia, whether a patient has early onset or mild dementia and is not on any treatment and they might slip through the net. It could be a misdiagnosis or a change of diagnosis; or it could be a case of a patient with dementia having a stroke, for example,” said Dr John O’Kelly, chair of the organisation.
“It would be interesting to know why these patients haven’t had a review recorded. It would certainly be worth drilling down into the data to establish why.”
The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, said that while the figures are alarming, care for people with dementia is often assessed and provided by memory clinics and multidisciplinary teams, not solely the GP.
“However, it is important that Health and Social Care Trusts look at the reasons why 2,000 patients did not have a face-to-face medical review by their GP for at least 15 months and consider if they are receiving the appropriate treatment.”