Suffolk: GPs given cash bonuses for filling out controversial “end-of-life” plans


- Credit: EDP, Archant

Health chiefs last night defended a two-year pilot programme that saw doctors in Suffolk receive a cash bonus for putting patients on controversial “end-of-life” plans.

The £50 bonuses were given out to 41 surgeries in Ipswich and east Suffolk every time they signed a care home patient up to the scheme.

In the care plans patients were asked questions including: where they would like to die, if they would want to be resuscitated and what drugs they would want administered.

Critics claim the project was intended to save money by freeing up costly hospital beds as patients could opt to die at home.

But last night Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which ran the trial scheme, said the “end-of-life advanced care” plan’s aim was to provide an opportunity for doctors to talk with patients, who are seriously ill and predicted to die within a year, about their options.

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A spokeswoman “categorically” denied that the aim was to save money, saying the plans were done compassionately with patients to give them a dignified death.

“The purpose of the scheme is to improve end-of-life care, not save money,” she said. “Any reductions in hospital expenditure are likely to be balanced by alternative community-based services.

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“The £50 payment to GPs was part of a two-year pilot to raise the profile of the scheme among staff.

“The reimbursement reflects the time spent by GPs with a patient and their family to achieve a dignified death.”

She said the bonuses had not gone directly to the GPs but to the doctor’s surgeries.

The CCG declined to say how much was paid out to the surgeries over the two years in total.

The scheme ran from July 2011 to September this year.

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