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Exclusive: COPD added to Government screening drive

By Nigel Praities

The Government is planning an ambitious screening programme for COPD, in addition to schemes for cardiovascular disease and cancer announced earlier this month, Pulse can exclusively reveal.

GPs will be at the forefront of the new screening drive, with a source close to the Department of Health telling Pulse that regular ‘lung health checks' will be provided as part of the new National Service Framework for COPD.

The news follows Pulse's revelation in November that the NSF would introduce a ‘pre-emptive strategy' for COPD, likely to include the screening of high-risk groups.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the go-ahead for ultrasound tests for abdominal aortic aneurysms and a nationwide programme of check-ups for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease earlier this month. He also signalled some screening programmes would be extended, for example for colorecal and breast cancer.

But while GPs have broadly welcomed the focus on preventive medicine, they hav questioned how the schemes will be run, and what resources there will be to compensate for the extra workload. The move to introduce lung health checks will intensify these concerns, with details of how the checks might work remaining hazy.

Dr John Haughney, a GP in East Kilbride and member of the General Practice Airways Group, said COPD screening should focus on case-finding and identifying those most at risk rather than systematic spirometry testing.

‘What I would hope is that the screening as proposed for COPD as part of the NSF does not slavishly limit itself to spirometry, as that would be burdensome,' he said.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chair of the GPC, condemned the screening announcements, revealing that the government had rejected an offer of more points for evidence-based screening for heart failure and kidney disease during contract negotiations. ‘It is just stupid. Not thought out and without reference to any kind of doctor,' he said.

Dr Surendra Kumar, a GP in Widnes and a member of the National Screening Committee, also criticised the premature announcement of the national vascular screening programme.

‘There is obviously some evidence, but it is not clear cut and more research is needed. The Prime Minister is clearly getting a bit carried away; vote-grabbing without doing his proper home work,' he said.

Two years of Pulse exclusives on screening Two years of Pulse exclusives on screening

Pulse has led the way in revealing the massive extension of preventative screening in primary care.

January 2006 – Government to bring in aneurysm screening

March 2006 – GPs set to screen millions a year for cardiovascular risk

June 2007 – Department of Health to launch online screening programme

Nov 2007 - GPs to be asked to screen for COPD

Jan 2008 – Prime Minister announces screening plans

Lung capacity

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