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Leading doctors urge government to withdraw cash incentive for dementia diagnosis

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Leading doctors and health campaigners have urged the government to withdraw the scheme to award GPs with £55 every time they make a dementia diagnosis.

In an open letter to Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, and Alistair Burns, national clinical lead for dementia, published in the BMJ, over 50 doctors and health campaigners said the policy is unethical and should be withdrawn without delay.

The letter was written by GP Dr Martin Brunet from Surrey and around 50 other GPs and healthcare organisations.

They said that helping people affected by dementia to achieve diagnosis is a worthwhile goal, but the means of achieving this must have a sound ethical basis.

They argue that a direct financial payment like this 'undermines the confidence, and with it the basis of trust inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.'

Misdiagnosis is a very real possibility, the letter said, as diagnosis is a subjective clinical assessment and patients who may have dementia are particularly vulnerable.

'The reaction of the general public to the story is a demonstration of the widespread concern that the policy is unethical, and we ask for it to be withdrawn without delay.'

The Dementia Identification Scheme proposes that all GPs in England will be paid £55 for every dementia diagnosis they make between now and April to meet the targets of diagnosing two-thirds of those with dementia.

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