The Patients Association has condemned plans to pay GPs an extra £55 for every new patient diagnosed with dementia, slamming the move as “a distortion of medical practice”.

The new Dementia Identification Scheme is a six-month, £5-million NHS England initiative designed to boost diagnoses of the condition, given that a massive number of cases remain unidentified. The optional service will issue GPs payments based on the net increase in their dementia registers at the end of March next year, in a bid to get two-third of patients suffering from the condition a diagnosis.

Martin McShane, NHS England national director for long term conditions, told the media: "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 drive to ensure this."

But response to the controversial move is mixed. Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the move was “a step too far”, “putting a bounty on the head of certain patients”.

“Good GPs will be diagnosing their dementia patients already. This seems to be rewarding poor GPs,” she added.

Over-medicalising patients

Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, welcomed “more resources to support GPs and primary care professionals to identify dementia in patients as early as possible”, but also warned of the potential for “over-medicalising” patients and said it must be ensured “financial incentives to increase dementia diagnosis don’t lead to inappropriate actions being taken”.

Dr Baker also pointed out that, “whilst the 66% target might sound ambitious, many GP practices around the country are already achieving this and it is important that practices exceeding this target do not lose out on more money and resources”.

GPC deputy chair Richard Vautrey said GPs don’t a financial incentive to diagnose dementia, which is something they were already doing, and that the investment would be better spent supporting practices to care for these patients.

“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.