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GPs to lead new screening programmes

GPs are to be expected to lead a huge new programme of cardiovascular screening after Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his intention to press ahead with the controversial plans.

The Department of Health will also roll out regular ultrasound tests for aortic aneurysms in men over 65. Proposals for both screening programmes were exclusively revealed by Pulse early in 2006.

The Department of Health said it would announce the populations to be targeted by cardiovascular screening over the next few months.

But it confirmed screening offered in GP surgeries would involve blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose, as well as recording age, gender, postcode, family history, height and weight.

The programme is expected to begin this year or early in 2009. The National Screening Committee originally suggested testing the over 50s.

The plans have been pushed to the top of the agenda by heart tsar Dr Roger Boyle, who has been involved in recommendations from NICE and the screening committee.

Dr John Ashcroft, a GP in Tibshelf, Derbyshire, and CHD lead for Erewash PCT said the move would be a lot of work for GPs – but worth the effort. ‘Gordon Brown did say there would be money going in from April but it's about how it's going in – it really should be about expanding the QOF by 100 points.'

Dr Terry McCormack, a GP in Whitby and chair of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society, said the programme needed to be clinically driven rather than politically motivated. ‘It's a massive undertaking but important. There has to be proper funding - will not be achievable unless it's financially supported.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said the plans were ill conceived and there were too few staff to carry out the tests.

‘We would like to be able to say that we fully support this new initiative – focusing on prevention should certainly be congratulated – but the practical considerations have not been properly thought through,' he said.

‘There has been no attempt to talk to GPs about how these proposals might work.'

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