GPs are being offered a cash bonus for every new dementia case they diagnose under a scheme that has been branded unethical by leading doctors. The NHS will pay family doctors £55 every time they diagnose a case, in the hope it will help boost the number of sufferers identified.
Health bosses estimate there are 850,000 cases of dementia in Britain but they believe less than half have been formally diagnosed. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that this figure will rise to by two thirds by next year.
But senior doctors have questioned the scheme by pointing out that the incentive could lead to misdiagnosis. Worse still some doctors may make the assumption that a patient is suffering from the condition even when they have very few symptoms at all. This is likely to lead to significant heartache on the part of the patient and their families.
Dr Martin Brunet, a GP from Guildford, Surrey, told the Daily Mail: “We need to think very carefully about this as it crosses a line that has not been crossed before – the direct payment on the basis of making a diagnosis – ‘cash for diagnoses’.
“Patients are at their most vulnerable when we make a diagnosis, because it is the doctor’s judgement and so very difficult for the patient to challenge it.
“The payment is not on the basis of caring for our patients, but only the diagnostic label we apply – this creates a major conflict of interests that is frankly unethical.”
Former president of the Royal College of GPs Dr Iona Heath, claimed the proposal was “an intellectual and ethical travesty.”
Outside the medical profession there are also questions about why doctors are being given a bonus for doing their job. British GPs are already some of the best paid medics in the world.