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Dementia care feels the pinch of COVID-19

Antipsychotic medicine prescribing, and dementia diagnosis and care planning have paid the price of COVID-19, new statistics from Public Health England reveal.

PHE’s dementia profile update for the year to March 2021 shows the effect of COVID-19 on dementia care. The main research findings are as follows:

  • Since April 2020, there has been a consistent pattern of lower diagnosed prevalence rates for dementia in over 65-year-olds compared to before the pandemic
  • Since January 2020, there has been a consistent pattern of lower proportions of dementia patients receiving a care plan or review compared to before the pandemic, with the gap widening as the year progressed
  • The variation across CCGs in England of the proportion of patients receiving a care plan or review has increased significantly in December 2020 compared to before the pandemic
  • since March 2020, there has been a consistent pattern of higher antipsychotic prescribing rates for dementia patients compared to before the pandemic

Specifically, the research finds that diagnosis of dementia has decreased 5.4 percentage points compared to December 2019 to 62.4 per cent. This is below the Government’s own 2020 dementia targets for two-thirds of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to have a formal diagnosis for their condition. Furthermore, since April 2020, there has been a consistent pattern of lower diagnosis rates when comparing the same months for each reporting year. April 2020 corresponds with the peak of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

In terms of care planning, the data shows that care planning or care plan review for people diagnosed with dementia fell to in 46.8 per cent in December 2020, compared to 2019.

The proportion of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England who were prescribed antipsychotic medication in the preceding six weeks had increased to 10.1 per cent in December 2020, up from 9.4 per cent the previous year.

Since March 2020, there has been a consistent pattern of significantly higher prescribing rates.

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