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GPs face new chlamydia screening pressure

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs will face increased pressure to take part in chlamydia screening this year as the Department of Health tries to shore up the flailing National Chlamydia Screening Programme.

The DH and leaders of the NCSP are determined to increase the uptake of the scheme – which has fallen below 5% in some PCTs – to more than the 70% benchmark needed to make the scheme cost-effective.

Pulse has previously reported on an NHS evaluation and modelling data that have both concluded that the scheme would not achieve the uptake rates needed to make it cost-effective without financial support being provided to GPs for their involvement. In November Pulse revealed that GP participation had crashed – with only 15% of GP surgeries offering the service in 2006/7.

Speaking at the RCGP conference for sexual health and contraception in general practice, Dr Simon Barton, past president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said uptake rates were ‘appalling', and that improving them was a top priority for the DH.

‘The chlamydia screening programme is an absolute waste of money at the rates we're doing it now. We have to get up to the 70% mark to get any benefit. The Department of Health in the next year are going to be putting a much bigger emphasis on the NCSP and making it work.'

Dr Barton, a consultant in genitourinary medicine at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, added: ‘At the moment uptake is appalling. There's going to be huge investment in the scheme [to make] it work in general practice.'

But Dr Richard Ma, a GP in north London and a member of the RCGP's Sex, Drugs and HIV taskgroup, doubted whether there would be any new money allocated for PCTs to meet the targets demanded of them.

‘There are PCT targets and there will be more pressure on PCTs to achieve them. One can only hope that as PCTs become financially healthier the money they have been allocated in the past will finally begin to filter through.

‘But there's only so far the programme can go if it's relying on goodwill and if the programme is going to work we need to get uptake up substantially.'

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