A GP is trained to identify illnesses, mental conditions and signs of ill health. A GP goes to work in the morning knowing that they’ll spend the day diagnosing and treating, or at least referring patients to more specialist care providers. A GP is paid a salary for doing the job that they’ve been employed to do. So why, then, are they being offered a £55 ‘bonus’ for each dementia diagnosis?

It’s said that more elderly people are scared of receiving a dementia diagnosis than a cancer diagnosis. Yet, with a diagnosis an elderly person can access the essential care and support that they need to manage their condition. Their families and carers, likewise, can access support and will feel some relief from knowing that a loved one’s condition has a name. Still, should dementia not be diagnosed in the course of a GPs duty and can a £55 bonus do more harm than good for patients?

Jumping the Queue

Writing about the bonus, one journalist stated that telling a receptionist that you’re concerned that you have dementia can enable you to skip the queue, book a fast appointment and get to your GP quicker. It’s argued that GPs will consider potential dementia patients as being more important than their other patients, because a potential diagnosis means a potential boost to their pay check. Where, then, does this leave others? If elderly people are concerned about dementia, should they necessarily be fast-tracked or moved ahead of other individuals?

Increasing Diagnosis Numbers

Unfortunately, perhaps through GPs not being aware enough of the signs and symptoms of dementia and perhaps because men and women are so scared of receiving the diagnosis that they’re avoiding asking for help, there are hundreds and potentially thousands of cases going undiagnosed throughout the UK. If a £55 incentive is what it takes for GPs not to brush off memory loss as a normal sign of aging, then it could be argued that using money to increase awareness of the condition will prove beneficial in time.

Equally, it could be argued that the £55 makes dementia sufferers more important than those with other medical conditions, worries and concerns. Should those worried about a lump in their breast be second-class citizens because nobody’s paying per cancer diagnosis, or should a patient with concerns that they might have suffered a mini stroke be unable to get an appointment this week because they’re all being taken up by people that think they might have dementia? If a GP can fill their calendar with potential dementia patients then they can certainly earn themselves an extra holiday abroad or a particularly nice car. Is this at the expense of the general public, or do the benefits of increasing dementia diagnosis numbers outweigh any negatives?

A False Diagnosis?

People might also need to be concerned that GPs will diagnose incorrectly, in an attempt to make as much money as possible. We all hope that this wouldn’t be the case, but we might be risking being given the ‘dementia’ label when what we’re suffering from is an entirely different condition. Intentionally or by accident, a GP may diagnose dementia when the condition isn’t really there.

As some GPs label the incentive a ‘bribe’, and as there are concerns that the money is being given out only to help NHS targets to be reached, it’s important to ask if the £55 payment is the best possible use of already stretched NHS funds.

Why the Need?

Dementia is a condition that a vast number of elderly people are suffering with, mildly or more seriously. Should it not be a condition that’s diagnosed accurately and routinely without financial motivation?

When you have dementia, there are tools available to help including daily living aids, support groups and certain types of medication. We have to question if we’re ready to be assigned a price tag in order to get the label.

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  1. George Nieman says:

    Diagnosing this condition is no different from any other method of diagnoses. No special payment should be made to GP’s for this as it may well lead to many more payments for a certain diagnosis. GPs are paid to do a doctors job, that’s what they are trained for and paid for. No special payments should ever be made no matter what the condition.

  2. Jo Havell says:

    Please GP’s do the job you are paid for, this includes dementia and remember that you are respected if you serve your patients well. I agree with George Nieman

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