Most GPs can't recognise signs of Alzheimer's

Early treatment alleviates symptoms but only 37 per cent of doctors are trained to identify it

Dementia will kill one in three people over 65, but a survey of GPs reveals that almost two-thirds admit they are not properly taught to recognise the signs of it.

Only 37 per cent of GPs say they have adequate basic training on dementia, according to research by the Alzheimer's Society. As a result, just 43 per cent of people with the condition are diagnosed, leaving hundreds of thousands of patients untreated, the charity claims.

Around 800,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, costing the economy more than £23bn every year. In less than 10 years, it is estimated that a million people will be living with the condition, rising to 1.7 million by 2051. If dementia is discovered and treated early, the onset of the worst symptoms can be delayed, giving people a better quality of life.

The Alzheimer's Society also found that 75 per cent of GPs wanted to know more about the management of behavioural symptoms of the disease. The survey of 382 GPs was commissioned ahead of Dementia Awareness Week which begins tomorrow.

Diane Abbott, Labour spokesperson on public health, said: "This is alarming, because we've got an ageing population with a higher incidence of Alzheimer's than ever. If dementia is caught early people can still have a high quality of life. But, if most GPs don't feel trained to deal with it, that's very worrying news for Britain's elderly and their families."

Poor diagnosis rates can also be attributed to the embarrassment and fear that prevents some patients from coming forward. When asked what the barriers to identifying the disease were, 65 per cent of GPs said "many people with dementia do not present to general practice" and 66 per cent also cited the stigma attached to the disease as putting patients off visiting their doctor.

Allan Grogan, 70, from the Wirral, took his wife, Mavis, 67, to the doctor in 2006 when she first showed symptoms, but the GP dismissed her unusual behaviour as "no cause for concern". A year later she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and now she is in full-time care in a nursing home.

"She was telling the same stories, and doing little things such as wearing her coat inside the house ,or putting the dishes and cutlery in funny places," said Mr Grogan.

"We were worried about it and took her to the GP and he said there was no cause for concern. It was only when we went back a second time that it was taken seriously."

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 to 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."

An online learning tool to help GPs tackle the problem is being launched this week by the Alzheimer's Society and the British Medical Association.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the 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."

Case study: 'It was frustrating: it was such a hard fight just to be diagnosed'

Heather Roberts, 57, from Derby, a former lecturer

"I was 50 when I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a good three years after I first told a GP my symptoms. My grandmother had dementia and I started recognising the same signs in myself. My brain was very, very sluggish. I was a college lecturer and have a degree in computing, but I suddenly found myself struggling to add two numbers together.

Everyone said I was too young. My first memory test showed I was functioning slightly above average, which they said was fine. A year later, I'd dropped to below average and it was dismissed as a bad day. On the third test, there was a huge drop and finally I was told, 'Yes, you probably do have Alzheimer's'. I was given treatment and my memory is significantly better now. It was frustrating that it was such a hard fight to be diagnosed. GPs aren't trained enough in this and I don't see it improving. My new GP is sceptical even though I have a written diagnosis."

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit