PERFORMANCE: A trial scheme to improve care for older patients in North West London has led to increased diagnosis of dementia and better care planning, according to an evaluation of its first year.

The Inner North West London Integrated Care Pilot, launched in July 2011, set out to improve the co-ordination of care for over 75s and adults with diabetes.

The initiative, which brought together health and social care providers and included the creation of multi-disciplinary groups and more sharing of data, has resulted in better communication across teams and organisations, according to researchers from Imperial College London and the Nuffield Trust.

They found a “marked increase” in diagnoses of dementia since the scheme’s launch and a significant increase in the provision of care plans for dementia sufferers with 42 per cent of those on dementia registers having a care plan in place.

There was also some evidence of increased testing for diabetes but no evidence that patients had got better at controlling the condition, according to the evaluation funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity.

However, the report said it was too early to see benefits when it came to patient outcomes and changes in the use of services - such as reduced emergency admissions to hospital.

More than three quarters of professionals who took part in a survey said new multi-disciplinary case conferences had boosted joint work and increased professional knowledge.

But the evaluation found many had struggled with a new IT tool designed to help with care planning and said the design and roll-out of the new system was “slower and more complex than anticipated”.

Researchers concluded the pilot was successful in drawing together diverse health and social care colleagues because of its voluntary and “virtual” nature in that it did involve “forcing any organisational mergers”.