Government efforts to reduce the numbers of dementia patients entering hospital will include the introduction of a fixed-fee tariff for providers of community care.
The policy was announced by health minister Earl Howe last week in response to a question in the House of Lords, although details of how it would work are yet to be released.
Under the payment by results policy, the Department of Health already operates tariffs for hospital treatment for Alzheimer’s patients and a variety of medical procedures, under which providers are paid a flat rate for treatments.
The system aims to drive quality and efficiency by paying providers only for the work that they do rather than in block grants.
Howe said the government was seeking to ensure the five-year National Dementia Strategy was sustainable. “We will do that principally by driving up quality standards through a tariff for dementia patients, by better regulation of providers and by better commissioning of services, including public health interventions,” he said.
Baroness Greengross, who tabled the debate on dementia, said Howe had told her that the introduction of a tariff was “high on his list” of priorities.
Ruth Sutherland, acting chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said money was often squandered on poor dementia care and the tariff could transform care and save money.
Simon Williams, dementia lead for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said it was a positive step. He added that the NHS would need to take a broad look at how it improves care, saying: “A tariff is one way of helping but it’s not the only way.”
Full details of the tariff are expected from the Department of Health in the coming weeks.
In last week’s Lords debate, Howe also said that the government’s priorities for dementia care would be reducing the use of antipsychotic drugs, promoting early diagnosis and improving the quality of care in care homes and hospitals.