This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

GPs go forth

NHS review calls for GP financial incentives to boost screening uptake

Financial incentives should be considered for GPs and primary care networks to boost uptake of screening programmes, an independent review of adult cancer screening programmes has found.

This could be particularly relevant in bowel screening where GPs currently have less involvement than with other programmes, the report by former CQC chief inspector Professor Sir Mike Richards said.

But GP leaders have stressed the pressures GPs face and said any extra work practices may have to carry out to boost uptake 'should be funded appropriately'.

The review was commissioned by NHS England in response to national scandals over the failure of Capita to pass on screening letters to 48,000 women and an IT error which had led to 450,000 women missing cancer screenings.

In addition, it was asked to address concerns about falling rates of attendance in NHS breast and cervical screening programmes.

Among a wide range of recommendations, the review concluded that screening incentives for providers could include ‘payment by activity, targeted payments for enhanced services or enhancements to GP payment systems at either practice or primary care network level’.

GP practices already receive some additional funding for carrying out cervical screening tests, through QOF payments.

The report highlighted seasonal increases in cervical screening activity - linked to QOF targets - as evidence for the effectiveness of financial incentives.

It said GPs do not feel as involved with bowel cancer screening - a programme the Government has already pledged to extend to more people by lowering the starting age from 60 to 50, as set out in the NHS long-term plan.

The screening report said: ‘Financial incentives to encourage GPs to promote uptake in people who have not participated within a set time of being sent a kit should be considered, taking into account of course, the need to minimise the administrative burden on general practice.'

For cervical screening, it said the introduction of primary care networks 'provides a new opportunity to provide more convenient services within a reasonable distance of people’s homes'.

Under the new GP contract, practices are paid to join networks, which will become responsible for delivering seven 'service specifications' in the coming years, including those focussed on increased screening and earlier detection of cancer.

The report added: ‘Primary care should be incentivised to provide screening services at times which are convenient for people who are eligible for screening.'

The review is also heavily critical of delays to the introduction of faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) for bowel cancer, which only began in England in June after an initial pilot in 2003 and an eventual green light from the National Screening Committee in 2015.

It is hoped that the roll-out of FIT kits could boost uptake by at least 7% with figures showing a boost of 8.5% in Scotland since 2017 when the test was introduced there.

GP leaders said they would welcome the roll-out of evidence-based screening schemes, but warned GPs would require more resources so as not to impact on their other areas of work.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Practices are not commissioned to deliver this particular screening service [for bowel cancer] and so, given the workload pressures facing GPs and their teams, the cost of any additional work required to improve uptake should be funded appropriately.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'Evidence-based screening can be a vital tool in spotting early signs of certain cancers and in some cases, can have a very positive impact on survival rates.

'Offering women more flexibility over access to cervical screening could potentially break down barriers for some people.'

She added: 'General practice is already stretched to its limits so we would need additional resources before we could create more flexibility.'


Readers' comments (7)

  • Vinci Ho

    This is not any rocket science . This government and its recent predecessors have simply got what it deserves .
    Desperate measures at desperate times . There must be a ‘decision’ on Capita , first of all .
    PCNs and GPs are not prepared to be the ‘martyrs’ and quick-fix solution for politicians to extract political brownie points in front of the public . The ‘new’ resources given to PCNs are not even enough for bare survival . Anything more the government asking GPs to do need substantially new investments with minimal strings attached.
    Treat us like crap , you get nothing , Boris

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Frankly, we have no time and it all goes to tax anyway. There is no need to have more stress.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Azeem Majeed

    NHS screening programmes such as bowel cancer and aortic aneurysm screening need to engage better with patients. GPs and their teams need to focus on their core work and are not in a position to take on the work of NHS screening services.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am really uncomfortable about financial incentives for screening uptake by patients.

    Screening should occur only after a well informed and robust shared decision making process so the patient is acting according to their values.

    Money has no place in this dialogue as it may bias the quality of balanced information given.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As per Shabi

    If incentivising screening, there must be equal payment for someone who has informed dissent.
    AND practices should not be judged (negatively) on high ‘exception reports’ as it probably just represents better consent.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Took Early Retirement

    I can't help thinking that if there is a decent screening test, those who are too thick to want it are just helping the rules of Darwinism. Their call. Why beg them to have screening if they can't be bothered.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Rogue1

    Screening is a public health issue and not part of core NHS work. Suggest we leave this to the relevant department, thought they do seem like hospitals all too ready to dump work like this into primary care.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say