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European health systems must change to cope with rise in dementia

Training of professional in patient care must be top of list

Health systems in Europe must adapt to handle growing numbers of patients with dementia, according to Dr Roberto Frontini, president of the European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP).

Speaking on World Alzheimer's Day, Dr Frontini said that the number of people living with dementia worldwide is expected to double by 2030, and action needs to be taken now by governments to properly handle the situation.

At the top of such plans should be the education and training of healthcare professionals to understand the impact dementia has in approaching patient care, with Dr Frontini referencing adherence as a particularly problematic area for people with dementia.

“It is important professionals are aware of this and of the strategies and methods available for improving compliance,” he said.

“More broadly, the enhanced care required for dementia patients in hospitals highlights again the need to ensure adequate staffing levels. This must be taken into account in national government decisions about health funding as well as and discussions about European health workforce planning.”

Multidisciplinary care was also mentioned by Dr Frontini, with the suggestion that the hospital pharmacist should play a larger role in patient care to ensure medication is prescribed effectively.

New research must also be stimulated in the field of dementia if healthcare systems are to cope, said Dr Frontini.

“Improvements currently proposed by the European Commission to the Clinical Trials Directive will go some way to assisting this, but there is still much more to be done,” he said, referencing Horizon 2020, the European Union's future framework programme for Research and Development, as an important tool in any research development.

“The cost-benefits to health systems from making advances in dementia medical research are almost self-evident.”

The need for research has become more pressing in recent months following trial disappointments investigating drugs to treat the dementia Alzheimer's disease, with studies from Eli Lilly and Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Elan reporting discouraging results for their respective drugs.

Dr Frontini's comments follow a report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) that claimed hospitals in the UK were on the brink of collapse, citing a rise in older people with dementia as one of the key issues to address.

24th September 2012


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