To investigate whether patients with dementia are referred to specialist services earlier in the disease since the launch of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and the publication of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for the use of these drugs. All referrals to old age psychiatry services in two 6-month periods in 1996 and 2003 were surveyed retrospectively for diagnosis, Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score and use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.
The mean MMSE score at referral increased from 18.8 to 21.5 (P=0.0005) between 1996 and 2003. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors were prescribed for 35% of all patients and 58% of patients that would be suitable according to NICE guidelines in the 2003 group.
The earlier referral of patients with dementia to mental health services is encouraging.
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