General practitioner England

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Dementia diagnosis incentive caution

GP practices should think 'very carefully' before taking up financial incentives to diagnose dementia, the BMA said today.

moneyNHS England will pay practices £55 for each new patient diagnosed with dementia by the end of this year as part of a drive to identify more people with the condition.

The dementia identification scheme was not approved by the BMA GPs committee in negotiations on the 2015/16 GP contract. 

The scheme is a new enhanced service which was announced by NHS England earlier this month.

NHS England said this would contribute to its objective to get two-thirds of patients with dementia diagnosed by 2015. It introduced the £5m incentive pot after data released in September showed some practices were below this target. 

The pot will fund the equivalent of each practice in England diagnosing about an additional 12 patients.

No payment needed

However, GPC deputy chair Richard Vautrey (pictured below) said GPs did not need a financial incentive to diagnose dementia, which was something they were already doing, and the investment would be better spent supporting practices to care for these patients.

Richard Vautrey‘Diagnosis of dementia is important, but chasing government targets is not, particularly if this undermines the doctor-patient relationship, which this proposal could do,’ he said.

‘Diagnosing dementia and making sure patients and their carers get the right support and treatment is something all GPs try to do every day. 

'They do not need financial incentives to do this. Practices should think very carefully about whether they should engage with this scheme. 

‘It would be far more beneficial to invest properly in GP services so that GPs can provide holistic care to all their patients or to use the funding address the real needs that patients and their carers tell us are crucial, including timely appointments at memory clinics and real support in the community.’

Range of measures

NHS England national director for long-term conditions Martin McShane said: ‘Dementia can be devastating for individuals and their families. 

'We know that more needs to be done across the health service to ensure that people living with dementia are identified so that they can get the tailored care and support they need. 

'This additional investment is part of a larger range of measures to support GPs in their work tackling dementia.’

Practices will now be asked to work with their clinical commissioning groups on developing a plan to identify more patients with dementia.

NHS England said practices will be resourced appropriately for the extra patients identified with the condition.

Respondents to a poll on the BMA website homepage have highlighted early detection and forward planning as one of the most effective ways of dealing with the growing problem of dementia, which is expected to affect one million patients by 2021. 

Forty-two per cent of the 161 respondents so far believe this is most effective; the same proportion believe a research breakthrough will be most effective.

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 Find out more about the dementia identification scheme

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