A DEMENTIA expert admits he has “concerns” after the Government announced that GPs will be awarded a £55 bonus for every person they diagnose with the brain illness.
NHS England yesterday confirmed family doctors would receive the cash under a new scheme in what is understood to be the first national initiative to reward doctors for diagnosing patients with a condition.
Under the scheme, doctors are said to be able to receive the money for every extra patient given a diagnosis of dementia over a six-month period.
In Hartlepool, most recent figures revealed that 1,148 people suffer from the illness, while estimates suggest that there will be 850,000 people living with the condition in the UK by 2015, costing the economy £26bn a year.
Dr Martin McShane, NHS England national director for long term conditions, said the bonus scheme was part of a drive to make sure sufferers get the best care.
But David Granath, director at the Hospital of God in Greatham, which cares for residents with dementia, said: “I do have concerns, because the amount doctors get paid should be entirely separate from the diagnosis they make.
“This could cast a shadow over people’s perceptions of doctors. not that I’m suggesting the doctor will diagnosedementia for £55, but people may have a doubt in their mind that the diagnosis was made for financial reasons.
“It is a difficult situation but it is all about a matter of confidence in the practitioner.”
Health chiefs have identified a gap of around 90,000 patients, an average of 12 per practice, who could benefit from a more timely diagnosis, for which an additional £5m has been made available to boost existing work to identify people with dementia, so that tailored support can be put in place to treat them.
The money is on top of an existing scheme launched last year, costing £42m nationally and involving 85 per cent of GP practices, while there is also a further £31m in incentives already offered to family doctors for the care of patients after they have been diagnosed.
But the new payment is “not just payment for diagnosis”, according to an NHS England spokesman, and practices will have to form a detailed plan and show improving diagnosis rates.