Last updated: 17.05.12

E-learning tool 'should help GPs understand dementia'

The Alzheimer's Society and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Group's medical education division BMJ Learning have set up a virtual learning environment for general practitioners (GPs), following a survey revealing only 37 per cent of these professionals believe they have been given sufficient basic training on dementia.The poll of 382 GPs, which was financed by the Alzheimer's Society's partner Lilly, found 71 per cent would like to be able to use online learning to understand more about the condition.Furthermore, 75 per cent specifically wish to know how to manage the behavioural symptoms caused by the cognitive decline.While 88 per cent of respondents said diagnosing dementia at an early stage can bring benefits to the patient, 65 per cent of the professionals reported a significant number of individuals with the neurological condition do not go to a general practice, which impacts the number of people who are told they have the ailment.Furthermore, 66 per cent argued the stigma associated with the illness can provide a barrier to diagnosis."We need to support GPs as much as possible as they have a vital role to play in diagnosing and supporting people with the condition, which is why we are very excited to launch this online learning tool," Alzheimer's Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes said.The e-learning course includes sections on non-drug treatments for behavioural aspects of dementia, such as music, social interaction and hobbies, as well as information about early diagnosis.Wigan GP Dr Alex Turnbull noted informing people they have dementia as quickly as possible enables them to access potential treatments and support, as well as prepare for the future.He claimed it is "vital" that GPs have the information and support they need to help patients."This online learning tool is a great new resource, which should help empower GPs to achieve that," Dr Turnbull added.According to the Alzheimer's Society, approximately 800,000 people in the UK have dementia, with women representing two-thirds of this number.