The clinics set the critera that allows GPs to refer patients - which usually consists of a combination of cognitive tests, laboratory blood tests, urine tests and physical examination.
A system that discourages or delays referral for dementia is highly counterproductive
– Dr Benedict Hayhoe
Lead author Dr Benedict Hayhoe, from the School of Public Health at Imperial says: “GPs have difficulty assessing patients with memory problems in strict accordance with guidance within a 10-minute consultation.
"In our experience a significant proportion of available consultation time can be taken up by carrying out just one of the brief cognitive tests.”
He went on to suggest that, with current workload pressures on primary care, complex criteria involving multiple investigations are likely to provide a significant disincentive for referral.
The authors set out alternative approaches to speed up diagnosis. Dr Hayhoe said: “A primary care led process, perhaps staffed by practice nurses carrying out assessments according to protocols, may speed up diagnosis while reducing pressure on GPs and specialists.”
He added that it may also be appropriate to allow people with memory concerns direct access to memory clinics.
Dr Hayhoe concludes: “A system that discourages or delays referral for dementia is highly counterproductive; an urgent review of this area is necessary to establish a system that effectively supports patients and clinicians in early diagnosis, treatment and prevention.”
"General practitioner referrals to memory clinics:are referral criteria delaying the diagnosis of dementia?" by Benedict Hayhoe, Azeem Majeed and Robert Perneczky is published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
Adapted from a press release by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
See the press release of this article