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GMC alert on private screening tests

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs who recommend screening tests offered by private firms to their patients could fall foul of the GMC under new guidance issued by the National Screening Committee.

The committee's new guidance aims to clamp down on a wide range of private tests, including carotid artery ultrasound, and unregulated use of abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and brain natriuretic peptide testing.

Pulse revealed in July that GPs would get guidelines to clarify the issue, after our investigation found 80% of GPs had been left to cope with patients demanding treatment for suspected problems uncovered through private screening.

The committee warned it had become aware a ‘significant number' of GP practices were being approached by companies offering private screening to their patients.

‘GP practices across England are being approached by companies offering private health screens to their patients.'

‘If GPs are offering screening through a private provider, patients will assume GPs are endorsing it. GPs need to be careful they are not contravening GMC Good Practice guidelines on offering patients private healthcare for which the practice has some financial gain, even if only administrative compensation.'

Dr Steven Laitner, a GP in St Albans, Hertfordshire, who helped draft the guidance as an adviser to the National Screening Committee, said tightening up the provision of private screening was ‘high up on the committee's agenda'.

‘We've heard of practices where premises are being used by private companies. A significant number have been involved in some form of collaboration with private companies. They need to be aware of the legal framework.'

‘I would like to see the practice stamped out, particularly in cases where tests fall outside of good medical practice. In these cases there could be more harm than benefit and I'd certainly prefer GP practices were not involved in these tests.'

GPs recommending private tests such as BNP screening may contravene GMC rules

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