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Dementia treatment failures

Dementia treatment failures

Dementia patients are being left without access to treatments which could help them because GPs are failing to spot the condition early enough, experts have warned.

People actively screened for the disease in research studies live longer than those diagnosed with dementia by their family doctors.

Data from more than 350 UK GP surgeries between 1990 and 2007 were analysed by scientists from the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Life expectancy after dementia as recorded by GPs is analysed in the study, for the first time.

Experts found that patients aged 60 to 69 had an average life expectancy of 6.7 years once diagnosed with dementia by their doctors.

A previous MRC study has shown that people in a comparable age range actively screened for dementia as part of a research study have a life expectancy of 10.7 years.

The research also revealed death rates are more than three times higher in people with dementia in the first year after GP diagnosis than in those without the condition.

This could indicate people received their diagnosis at a time of crisis or when the disease had already taken a strong hold, experts said.

The study also found GPs were recording dementia in a non-specific way and were not differentiating between Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

This could affect the types of treatments people receive in the long-term and how their disease is managed.