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Commercial health tests will drive up GP workload

The RCGP has warned that the increasing use of commercial health tests by the worried well is driving up GP workload as inaccurate results lead healthy patients to fear they are at risk of serious disease.

Morgannwg LMC was so worried about the issue it highlighted the problem in its newsletter this month.

GPs were told the increased popularity of cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure testing through supermarkets, pharmacies and home test kits was leading to more 'false positive' results and causing patients unnecessary anxiety.

The Medical Protection

Society also warned of potential claims against GPs if they failed to spot patients at risk from conditions such as heart disease and diabetes subsequently revealed by a commercial test.

In one commercial scheme, customers at nine Tesco pharmacies were invited to complete a health questionnaire and offered blood pressure or cholesterol testing, or even referred to a GP if they were considered at risk of heart disease by a pharmacist.

A spokeswoman for Tesco said the scheme was solely to 'raise patient awareness' of heart disease and pharmacy services.

But RCGP clinical network chair Dr Joe Neary said it was concerned the advice some schemes offered was inadequate.

Dr Neary, a GP in Leeds, said: 'It's an unethical practice to sell a test to somebody with counselling so poor that you work up anxiety and demand for treatments which may be wholly inappropriate.'

He claimed patients who used commercial testing were invariably those at low risk of serious conditions, adding: 'All a high cholesterol level in people with low heart disease risk can possibly do is stir up anxiety ­ people come along to the doctor's in a panic.

Dr Ian Millington, secretary of Morgannwg LMC and a GP in Swansea, South Wales, said he was not against the Tesco scheme or self-testing in general but warned: 'GPs are well aware of the anxieties that false positive results may produce in an otherwise healthy individual.

'What we don't want is a succession of people coming into the surgery with erroneous raised results.'

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