General practices will be awarded £55 for each diagnosis of dementia they make, NHS England has announced.
Under the new plans, GPs will receive the sum for every case of dementia they diagnose, paid out of a special £5 million fund. The money will also be awarded to practices that update their records should a patient be diagnosed in secondary care. NHS England estimates that over 90,000 people are living with undiagnosed dementia. The organisation aims to have diagnosed two thirds of these cases by 2015.
The proposals received a mixed reception. Concern has been raised over rewarding practices for work they should already be doing. Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, 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. It is a distortion of good medical practice.'
Marina Lupari, the RCN' s Professional Lead for Primary and Community Care, said: 'Dementia has a devastating impact on the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers. Despite some improvements, care for dementia often remains poor and fragmented. Lack of co-ordination between primary, secondary and social care is a key factor in triggering avoidable admissions for older patients and specifically for those with dementia. The Quality and Outcomes Framework currently rewards GPs for conducting an annual review with their dementia patients. It's crucial that any new incentives ensure that care is properly coordinated and diagnoses made more timely. This would help provide people with dementia and their caregivers quicker access to support.'
George McNamara, head of policy and public affairs at the Alzheimer's Society said: 'Given that only half of people living with dementia receive a diagnosis any steps towards improving diagnosis is a good thing. However, a focus on enhanced payments is only part of the answer and alone will not suffice. GPs are motivated by caring for their patients, not ticking boxes. We know that some doctors are reluctant to give a diagnosis because they know the right help and support isn't available locally. It's absolutely vital that every person with dementia understands what is happening to them and has access to the help they need afterwards.'
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