New dawn in care of brittle bone patients as GP pay deal means they will receive incentives to stop fractures
01:46 GMT, 2 April 2012
Incentives: For the first time, GPs' pay will depend partly on their ability to cut the number of fractures caused by bone thinning
Hundreds of thousands of osteoporosis sufferers will receive better NHS care as a result of a pay deal which comes into force today.
Family doctors now have financial incentives to cut the number of fractures caused by bone thinning and to prescribe preventative treatment.
For the first time, GPs’ pay partly depends on checking their patients for the disease.
They will have to ensure that those
who break a bone no longer go unnoticed but are referred to a fracture
clinic for diagnosis and treatment.
The deal comes after seven years of
campaigning by the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS), highlighted by
the Daily Mail, and its president, the Duchess of Cornwall, who has
spoken publicly of the terrible impact osteoporosis had on her mother.
At a dinner to celebrate the 25th
anniversary of the NOS last November, the Duchess said: ‘Following a
seven-year campaign, osteoporosis has at last been included in the new
‘GPs will now have a financial incentive to pick up early signs of this disease – a far cry from the old days.
‘Hopefully this will lead to a much
more positive approach to the treatment and diagnosis of osteoporosis
and save future generations from the pain and ignominy that my mother
and so many thousands of others suffered.’
Osteoporosis is often termed the ‘silent
disease’ as there are no symptoms prior to a bone breaking as the
result of a minor impact, known as a fragility fracture.
However, from then on the likelihood of further breaks increases dramatically.
Around 300,000 fragility fractures occur every year in Britain, and hip fractures lead to 1,150 deaths every month. But only one in three health trusts run fracture liaison services to act on the warning given by the first break and help prevent any more, according to the Royal College of Physicians.
Under the new Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) indicators, GPs will receive payment for assessing patients for osteoporosis following a fracture and for starting them on an appropriate treatment, as they do for other conditions such as high blood pressure.
Although payments are only activated for patients who break a bone from April 1 onwards, campaigners hope it will lead to a more pro-active approach to diagnosing the disease among patients who have had a recent fracture.
Supporter: The Duchess of Cornwall has spoken about the 'pain and ignominy' that her mother suffered as a result of osteoporosis
NOS chief executive Claire Severgnini said: ‘Having osteoporosis included in the new QOF is a major breakthrough and it heralds new hope for the millions of people affected by osteoporosis and fragility fractures.
‘Too many people are dying as a result of hip fractures, which is for many the final destination of a 30-year journey of multiple fractures fuelled by decreasing bone strength and warning signs being ignored.
‘At least half of hip fracture deaths could be prevented with better diagnosis, and GPs have an extremely important role to play in this.
‘If you have had a low-impact fracture, particularly in the last five years, you should always ask your GP for a bone health assessment.
‘The new QOF indicators apply to patients who have fractured since April 1, 2012, but these incentives will encourage GPs to investigate anyone, male or female, who has broken a bone as a result of a minor bump or fall.’
Supporters of the National Osteoporosis Society, including Joanna Lumley, Cilla Black and Barbara Windsor, have added their weight to the charity’s campaign.
NOS patron Barbara Windsor said: ‘My mother-in-law Rita has osteoporosis and so I know how careful a sufferer has to be.
‘However Rita was one of the lucky ones – her condition was caught early, enabling her to lead a relatively normal life.
‘But I know that so many people are not diagnosed in time, and go on to experience unimaginably painful fractures.’