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GPs best for STI testing

Study backs calls for funding for chlamydia screening in general practice

Sexual health experts have urged the Government to fund GP chlamydia screening after new research showed general practice was the best place to target young adults.

Researchers found GPs who used a combined opportunistic and postal approach could successfully screen up to 88 per cent of those targeted.

The study of 12,973 patients aged 16 to 24 ­ published in February's British Journal of General Practice ­ found 60 per cent of men and 75 per cent of women attended their practice over a one-year period. A further 21 per cent of patients would attend for screening after a postal invitation, the study found.

The researchers said their findings refuted suggestions that men did not attend practices often enough to make GP screening feasible.

Study leader Professor Chris Salisbury, professor of primary healthcare at the University of Bristol and a local GP, insisted chlamydia screening needed to become 'the bread and butter of general practice'

He said: 'It is the best place to do screening but at the moment it's not incentivised. It could easily be a local enhanced service and it should be national. It is equivalent to cervical screening or vaccination.'

He added: 'There has been debate about whether we can carry out opportunistic screening. The argument has been it wouldn't work with young men because they don't visit their GPs often enough, but we have shown that they do.'

Dr William Ford-Young, RCGP sexual health spokesman, said the Government had 'missed an opportunity' by not including GPs in the screening programme ­ despite funding GPs in the initial pilots.

'There's great potential but we're not going to realise this unless the screening programme incentivises GPs to do the work. It's not going to work if it's patchy.' He added that general practice had not been included in the scheme because of concerns about cost. 'We are a sleeping giant. To say you can't do this outside genitourinary medicine clinics is not a valid argument.'

A second study published online in the BMJ found men with sexually-transmitted infections were more willing to visit their GP than a GUM clinic.

It also found the number of people diagnosed with STIs in general practice was 'substantial and increasing'.

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