When GPs were offered a bonus of £55 for diagnosing a patient with dementia, the numbers not surprisingly increased, but once the payments were halted, diagnosis numbers dropped again.
A scheme which ran from October 2014 to April 2015 and saw GPs being rewarded at least £55 to diagnose someone with dementia saw the number of dementia cases diagnosed jump from 336,445 to 400,707 – a rise of 19 per cent, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
Under the national scheme, which aimed to improve rates of dementia diagnosis, doctors could receive the £55 payment for every extra patient given a diagnosis of dementia in the six months ending in March 2015. GPs qualified for payment if they diagnosed the patients themselves – with no checks on whether their assessment was correct – or if they updated their records when their patients received a diagnosis in hospital.
Many patient groups and doctors condemned the scheme, with some calling it an ‘ethical travesty’, particularly as once the payments scheme stopped, the number of diagnoses then dropped again. Just one month after the scheme was started in 2014, more than 50 doctors wrote an open letter to the NHS demanding that it be scrapped.
Dr Iona Heath, a north London GP and former president of the Royal College of GPs described the national scheme as “an intellectual and ethical travesty.”
This was mainly because some believed it would encourage doctors to diagnose dementia incorrectly just to earn more, while Roger Goss, from Patient Concern, said:
‘Why should we pay doctors extra to do the job they’re supposed to do anyway? This results in preferential treatment for one category of patient.’
HSCIC figures also showed that the number of drugs used to treat dementia had risen from 502,003 in 2004 to three million in 2014 – which is six times higher.
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