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GPs face pressure on chlamydia screening

GPs are set to face intense pressure from PCTs to participate in chlaymdia screening after the Department of Health demanded NHS managers step up efforts to raise uptake rates.

The department wrote in a letter to SHAs that many more chlamydia screens would need to be undertaken in primary care if the National Chlamydia Screening Programme was to be viable.

The letter, published on the department website, warns GPs and trusts will face increased monitoring on uptake rates and growing pressure to meet uptake targets.

The move signals the latest attempt to save the ailing programme, which has failed to achieve the desired take-up since its introduction in 2003.

The letter from Alan Hall, director of performance at the Department of Health, says: ‘Increase in screening by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme is essential if the 2008/09 target of screening 17 % of the target population is to be achieved.'

It adds: ‘The longer term strategy is that, as the NCSP rollout continues, many of the tests performed in primary care outside of the programme will be incorporated into it.'

The department and leaders of the NCSP are desperate to increase the uptake of the scheme – which has fallen below 5% in some PCTs – to more than the 50% benchmark needed to make the scheme cost-effective.

Dr Richard Ma, a GP in north London and a member of the RCGP's Sex, Drugs and HIV taskgroup, welcomed the letter, but said large numbers of GPs would not take up chlamydia screening without financial incentive.

He said: ‘PCTs need to be a bit imaginative with trying to encourage chlamydia screening in under 25s. If we could persuade some GPs that this is a good thing, we may see some increase in uptake.

‘But relying on goodwill and peer pressure will take a lot of time. Without financial incentive, this won't move forward.'

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