Mixed views over £55 dementia bonus for doctors

CONCERNS: Ernie Thompson, chairman of Action on Dementia Sunderland.
CONCERNS: Ernie Thompson, chairman of Action on Dementia Sunderland.
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A DEMENTIA campaigner says he has “mixed feelings” 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. There are about 3,444 Sunderland people battling dementia, while estimates suggest that there will be 850,000 people living with the condition in the UK by 2015, costing the economy £26billion 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 some patient groups have argued that the measure amounts to a bribe.

Ernie Thompson, chairman of Action on Dementia Sunderland, said: “Sunderland is better than most for getting people diagnosed with dementia, but there are many elderly people, a lot of them already in nursing homes, who are struggling with dementia but haven’t yet been diagnosed.

“Personally, I think it should be done without a financial incentive and as a matter of course because most people go to their family GP when they have problems like this.”

Health chiefs have identified a gap of about 90,000 patients, an average of 12 per practice, who could benefit from a more timely diagnosis, for which an additional £5million 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 £42million nationally and involving 85 per cent of GP practices, while there is also a further £31million 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.

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