£55 dementia diagnosis ‘bounty’ for GPs is condemned

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Plans to pay family doctors a £55 “bounty” to diagnose dementia have been condemned by campaigners.

NHS England said GPs would receive the cash under a new scheme for every extra patient diagnosed.

Official figures show only around half of cases are diagnosed nationally.

The lowest rates of diagnosis in the region are in the East Riding, with an estimated 39 per cent of cases detected, rising to 68 per cent in Sheffield.

NHS England has set a target of identifying two thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia by 2015 but has admitted progress is slower than expected.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the move was “a distortion of good medical practice”.

She said: “We know GPs receive incentive payments to find all sorts of conditions, such as high cholesterol, raised blood pressure and diabetes - but this seems a step too far. It is putting a bounty on the head of certain patients.

“Good GPs will be diagnosing their dementia patients already. This seems to be rewarding poor GPs.”

Gary Cleaver, of Unison in Yorkshire, said the reasons for the shortfall in diagnosis should be urgently addressed.

“Mental health services are in crisis across the country because of Government underfunding,” he said.

“More money should be going into treatment for people suffering from dementia, not into the pockets of a relatively small number of GPs – most of whom have never sought to receive extra payment for doing their job.

“This sends a clear message that high earners need to get paid even more to carry out their basic duties while already low paid NHS staff are condemned to doing more for less.”

Timothy James, senior lecturer in medical law and ethics at Birmingham City University, said experience showed financial incentives were “very effective” in changing GPs’ practice.

But he added: “The ethical point is surely that doctors should diagnose illness in order to benefit their patients, not themselves.”

Martin McShane, NHS England national director for long term conditions, said: “We know that more needs to be done across the health service to ensure that people living with dementia are identified so that they can get the tailored care and support they need.”