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BMJ Open. 2013 Dec 23;3(12):e004023. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004023.

Improving the identification of people with dementia in primary care: evaluation of the impact of primary care dementia coding guidance on identified prevalence.

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General Practice, Waltham Forest CCG, London, UK.



Improving dementia care is a policy priority nationally and internationally; there is a 'diagnosis gap' with less than half of the cases of dementia ever diagnosed. The English Health Department's Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) encourages primary care recognition and recording of dementia. The codes for dementia are complex with the possibility of underidentification through miscoding. We developed guidance on coding of dementia; we report the impact of applying this to 'clean up' dementia coding and records at a practice level.


The guidance had five elements: (1) identify Read Codes for dementia; (2) access QOF dementia register; (3) generate lists of patients who may have dementia; (4) compare search with QOF data and (5) review cases. In each practice, one general practitioner conducted the exercise. The number of dementia QOF registers before and after the exercise was recorded with the hours taken to complete the exercise.


London primary care.


23 (85%) of 27 practices participated, covering 79 312 (19 562 over 65 s) participants.


The number on dementia QOF registers; time taken.


The number of people with dementia on QOF registers increased from 1007 to 1139 (χ(2)=8.17, p=0.004), raising identification rates by 8.8%. It took 4.7 h per practice, on an average.


These data demonstrate the potential of a simple primary care coding exercise, requiring no specific training, to increase the dementia identification rate. An improvement of 8.8% between 2011 and 2012 is equivalent to that of the fourth most improved primary care trust in the UK. In absolute terms, if this effects were mirrored across the UK primary care, the number of cases with dementia identified would rise by over 70 000 from 364 329 to 434 488 raising the recognition rate from 46% to 54.8%. Implementing this exercise appears to be a simple and effective way to improve recognition rates in primary care.



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