The ‘cash for diagnosis’ scheme has been officially dropped, following outrage from patient groups and doctors alike. The NHS has announced that the controversial scheme will be dropped in April, 2015. This also happens to be the month during which the Government will remeasure whether diagnosis rates have improved.
A total of 50 GPs wrote to Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, calling for the payments to be axed, however the backlash did not end there. The scheme was rolled out nationally but was instantly branded an ‘ethical travesty’. Leading GPs said a ‘dangerous precedent’ was being set by giving doctors financial rewards for diagnosing patients, which could lead to the trust between patients and doctors being broken.
Encouraging doctors to diagnose patients with dementia for the sake of meeting targets could have ‘truly tragic consequences’, as patients may be misdiagnosed.
Earlier this month, a poll of 600 GPs revealed that two thirds thought the scheme was unethical, in promising £55 per dementia diagnosis for GPs. However, in England alone, less than half of the 850,000 dementia sufferers have received a formal diagnosis.
Mr Stevens defended the scheme by stating the payments were a ‘one-time’ opportunity to boost targets and provide dementia sufferers with the diagnosis they need in order to receive the support they need.
The deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, Dr Richard Vautrey said:
‘It is good to see that NHS England have finally listened to GPs and the BMA who have raised concerns about the Government directly linking payments to specific targets.
Decisions about an individual’s care should always be based on clinical need, not financial imperatives, and while the diagnosis of dementia is important it should not be done in a way that could seriously undermines the doctor/patient relationship.
Rather than wasting money on short-term, pre-election targets, it would be far more beneficial to invest properly in GP services so that GPs can provide holistic care or to provide proper resource to meet the real needs that patients and their carers tell us are crucial, including timely appointments at memory clinics and real support in the community.’
Despite the controversy surrounding the scheme, over 40% of GPs have signed up ahead of the original deadline of November, 17.