Early dementia screening does more harm than good, claim experts

Early dementia screening does more harm than good, claim experts

Screening people for the early signs of dementia could actually do more harm than good, a group of experts have claimed.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, a group consisting of researchers from the UK and Australia said that early tests are leading to way too many otherwise healthy people being diagnosed as having mild cognitive impairment or pre-dementia.

And they feel that this trend will cause two in every three people over the age of 80 to be labelled as having Alzheimer's disease.

However, as many as seven in ten people in this category never actually go on to have full dementia.

They claimed that increased moved to have more screenings here and in the US come part of a "political drive" rather than any real medical need.

The experts also believe the NHS is being drained for vital resources because this trend of early testing is leading to more people with only mile memory issues being sent to extra assessments.

"Current policy is rolling out untested and uncontrolled experiments in the frailest people in society without a rigorous evaluation of its benefits and harms to individuals, families, service settings, and professionals," they stated.

Their comments have been rejected by the Alzheimer's Society, who said clinicians are merely being encouraged to do 'case finding' to see who is more likely to develop dementia, rather than block screening people earlier than normal.

Jeremy Hughes, the charity's chief executive, said: "We should be backing doctors up and down the country who are helping ensure people with dementia are diagnosed. Discussion of screening is irrelevant as no one is advocating its introduction."

He added that as over a million people are likely to be living with the cognitive condition by 2021, society cannot afford to bury its "head in the sand".

Toby Williamson, head of development and later life at the Mental Health Foundation, said that pre-dementia screenings do run the risk of incorrectly diagnosing some people and there is widespread agreement in the UK that they should not be overly relied upon.

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