Only half of people with dementia get annual medical review

Claudia Cooper is an honorary consultant old age psychiatrist with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. She focuses on research related to dementia and mental health in older age. Here she discusses her recent Age & Ageing paper Inequalities in receipt of mental and physical healthcare in people with dementia in the UK.

Age&Aging front cover design chosen chosenPeople with dementia experience more mental and physical health problems than people without dementia, and more frequently take medication for mental health problems, so ensuring the get fair access to mental and physical healthcare is important.

Our study looked at primary care records of 68, 061 people with dementia and 259,337 people without dementia between 2002 and 2013. We looked at how rates of mental health medication prescribing (antipsychotic, antidepressant and sedative drugs);  contact with General Practice surgeries and physical health checks  (blood pressure, weight monitoring and an annual review) varied between people living in more and less deprived areas, and between men and women.

We found that only half of people with dementia received a documented annual review. In this and the other areas we looked at, there was no difference between people living in more and less deprived areas.

When we looked at gender, however, we did find differences. Compared to men with dementia, women with dementia consulted their General practice surgery less frequently, and were less likely to have had their blood pressure checked and weight monitored within a year.  Men with dementia were less likely to be taking mental health medication than women with dementia. People with dementia consulted their General practice surgery less frequently, and were less likely to have had their blood pressure checked and weight monitored, compared to people without dementia.

People with dementia, in particular women, appear to receive less primary health care, but take more psychotropic medication that may negatively impact their physical health. Reducing these inequalities and improving their access to preventative healthcare could improve the health of people with dementia. Increasing the number of people with dementia who have an annual health review focussed on preventing future mental and physical health problems might help achieve this.

Read full Age & Ageing paper: Inequalities in receipt of mental and physical healthcare in people with dementia in the UK

This work was supported by The  Dunhill Medical Trust [grant number  R296/0513].

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