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Dementia patients in poor areas are 27% less likely to get help

By rejusro, on 30 November 2015

claudias blogA study by Dr Claudia Cooper (UCL Psychiatry) found that dementia patients in England’s poorest areas are 27 per cent less likely to be prescribed anti-dementia drugs than those in richer places. Read more in the Sun.

Over 800,000 people in the UK have dementia and numbers are growing as people live longer. There is no cure but drug treatments can help, for example by slowing memory loss among some people. The 2009 National Dementia Strategy made fair access to these treatments a priority.

We investigated how likely it is that people living with dementia get these drugs. We looked at primary care records from 6% of the UK population, including 75,000 people with dementia, from 2002 to 2013. In England people from least deprived areas (generally the richest) were 25% more likely to be started on ‘anti-dementia’ drugs than people in the most deprived areas. This did not change over time despite the National Dementia Strategy and other government policies. By contrast, in Scotland, how deprived the area where people lived did not affect whether they got this treatment.

It is striking that people with dementia living in more deprived areas get less treatment in England but not Scotland. Scotland spends more on health than England and the countries have different health policies. One reason for this difference in dementia prescribing may be that from 2006 to 2009 NICE restricted prescribing of these drugs to people with moderate dementia but the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network did not. We think that people from more affluent areas may be more likely to ask for and get treatments not endorsed by guidelines. In addition, younger people with dementia were more likely to be treated than older people, and men were more likely to be treated than women.

More research is needed to help ensure that dementia treatment in England is fair and meets equalities targets. We should be aware that policies to restrict treatment availability probably affect people in deprived areas most and make sure that changes benefit everyone.

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