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GPs make 'major step forward' in chlamydia screening

By Lilian Anekwe

The national chlamydia screening programme took a ‘major step forward' last year as GPs ramped up the number of screens done in general practice, according to a report by the Health Protection Agency.

Their preliminary report praises GPs for the ‘enormous progress' the profession has made in screening sexually active men and women aged 16-24 for chlamydia, which has helped boost the number of tests done as part of the programme to record numbers.

Over 1.5 million tests were conducted as part of the programme in 2009/10. This is an increase of 442,000 tests and a 58% rise on the previous year.

Given that the programme aims to screen only the sexually active - estimated to be 82% of young women and 80% of young men aged 16 to 24 - then the proportions tested in 200/10 were approximately 47% and 25% of sexually active young men and women in the target age group, respectively.

The number of positive screens also fell, the report finds, from 7.9% to 6.3% in women and 7% to 5% in men.

The HPA attributed most of the ‘large upsurge' in community-based testing – excluding tests performed in GUM clinics – to the inclusion of annual objective for chlamydia screening in the Department of Health's vital signs indicator framework.

A third of PCTs reached the indicator target of testing at least 25% of their population aged 15-24 for chlamydia, and in a further third of PCTs coverage was between 20 and 25%.

But the report reveals PCTs and GPs are set for even further demands to improve the uptake of chlamydia screening – demanded by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in response to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

'The PAC wants the programme to improve efficiency and to have better evaluation. HPA plans are at an advanced stage to begin a population-based prevalence indicator survey to monitor the programme's impact on the level of infection, thus addressing one of the key recommendations of the NAO.'

Dr Sebastian Kalwij, a GP in Lewisham, London and lead GP for the National Chlamydia Screening Programme said: 'I think it is great news. We have done a lot of work with GP's over the last year and more and more GP's are now offering chlamydia screening.

'I have seen an increase in GPs' demands to run workshops on how to set up screening in their practice. For instance yesterday evening, the event was attended by over 50 GP's and practice nurses. I now do about 2-3 workshops per month and each time I meet enthusiastic GPs who are interested in sexual health and realise that this is an important issue.'

Health Protection Report Chlamydia trachomatis

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