An iPad-based test for early dementia diagnosis is being rolled out across 24 GP practices in Doncaster, following a pilot.
The Cantab Mobile software is a ten-minute assessment that gives health professionals a clear idea of whether a patient should be referred for dementia testing.
Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust piloted the test with 45 patients at one practice earlier this year, and is extending its use for 12 months.
Joanne Liversidge, the trust’s primary care liaison nurse for dementia, said GPs and staff from 24 other practices will now receive training and support for the software.
“This will enhance the services we offer to our patients who have dementia, their family and carers,” Liversidge said.
The iPad test has been specifically developed for primary care and can detect the earliest signs of episodic memory loss; one of the first warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
The touch-screen test uses symbols rather than words and has voiceover instructions in 20 languages.
A patient’s test results are automatically scored and compared with their expected performance based on age, gender and education.
The news coincides with the publication by the Alzheimer’s Society of a dementia-friendly technology charter to help people with dementia benefit from technology.
The charter says that all health and care providers and commissioners should develop accessible information on where dementia friendly technology is available in their local area.
It also says that a person’s statutory right to a social care assessment should always include a consideration for dementia friendly technology.
“Whilst not a solution for everyone, technology enabled solutions can manage risks in a cost effective manner. More importantly, they can also improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their loved ones,” says the charter.
It says that understanding people’s need is key to identifying the right technology for the patient. The charter explains which type of technology might be useful for different problems.
For someone in an early stage of dementia, technology can be used to identify signs of the condition, such as the iPad test, and in a late stage of dementia, technology can be used to enhance stimulation, it says.
Commenting on the charter, NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia professor Alistair Burns said this was a landmark guide to improving access to “life-changing” technology.
“A lot of excellent information about dementia exists but GPs are incredibly busy and certainly don’t have the time to search different sources during a consultation,” he said.
“The majority of patients want to stay at home for as long as possible so any information we can provide which helps empower them and their carers is good news.”
Improving the treatment and care of people with dementia is one of the Department of Health’s top ten priorities in its 2014-15 corporate plan, while it is also one of NHS England’s enhanced services for its 2014-15 General Medical Services contract with GP practices.