A scheme aimed at boosting dementia diagnosis rates by paying GPs £55 for every patient they diagnose has come under fire.
Under the NHS England scheme, doctors would get the cash for every extra patient on their dementia register next March, compared to September just gone.
But the scheme has been criticised by the Patients Association as a ‘distortion of good medical practice’ and has also been given the thumbs down by the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association.
And John Davies-Allen, from Thornton, who was diagnosed with dementia two years ago, said he was “not happy about” the plan.
Mr Davies-Allen, 53, said he agreed more needed to be done to improve diagnosis of the condition and said he had been diagnosed at the Mount View Memory Clinic in Fleetwood after his GP missed signs including problems with this balance.
But he said paying GPs was not the way to go.
“It should be standard practice to diagnose people and GPs should not have to be paid extra,” said the dad of one. “I’m worried this could lead to GPs mis-diagnosing people just to get the money.
“When you get that diagnosis your whole life changes so if that diagnosis turns out to be wrong that really isn’t going to be very nice for the person.”
Fewer than half the estimated 800,000 people in the UK with dementia have received a formal diagnosis, with NHS England looking to raise that proportion to two-thirds by next year.
Under the plans, an extra £5m is being provided to help boost efforts to identify people with dementia to enable support to be offered to them.
Dr Steve Parr-Burman, from North Shore Surgery in Blackpool, insisted the £55 payment would go back into improving diagnosis rates.
“We’re not going to use it to increase our pay and we won’t be spending it on the golf course or on other leisure activities,” he said.
“It will be ploughed back into the practice and into covering the costs of improving diagnosis.
“I can see what people are saying about it being part of our job, but we have to diagnose lots of conditions and we will now have to actively look for patients to screen for dementia. The £55 payments may not even cover the costs of doing this.”
Dr Parr-Burman said fears the scheme would result in patients being mis-diagnosed were “nonsense”.
“We are highly ethical and we are not going to label someone as having dementia for £55, it’s a nonsense.
“GPs have a really complicated reimbursement system and we already get paid for screening patients for things like asthma and stroke.”
Dr Amanda Thornton, clinical director for adult community services at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, who works at Bloomfield Surgery, said: “Ensuring an early yet accurate diagnosis of dementia is really important and making sure that people have the appropriate access to treatment can have a real impact on so many lives.”
The trust runs Memory Assessment Services which make assessments, offer treatment and therapy, and put on memory management groups.
Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s national director for long term conditions, said: “Dementia can be devastating both 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.”