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MPs condemn Government over polyclinics and vascular screening

By Steve Nowottny

MPs have condemned the Government's ad hoc and poorly planned rollout of the vascular screening programme, which they say may make it impossible to evaluate.

A health select committee inquiry into health inequalities criticised the Department of Health for failing to adopt a national model for vascular checks.

It comes weeks after a Pulse investigation revealed huge variations between PCTs in the ways they were funding and carrying out screening.

The report is highly critical of the Government's implementation of the £332m-a-year programme, which it concluded was symptomatic of a ‘shocking' lack of evidence behind major NHS strategies for tackling inequalities.

The committee warned: ‘Allowing PCTs to determine implementation entirely locally risks ending up with very divergent approaches. A preferable approach would be a national model which could be piloted and evaluated, for example in one SHA area.'

Labour MP Kevin Barron, chair of the committee, said: "We were shocked by the lack of meaningful evidence and evaluation. How can those involved in addressing health inequalities know for certain what works? Without proper evaluation, evidence-based policy is impossible.'

The committee also condemned the Government's national rollout of GP-led health centres and new APMS practices in underdoctored areas: ‘The central edict to introduce GP-led health centres has not involved consideration of either need or inequalities. In fact, centralising GP services may make access more difficult for lower socio-economic groups.'

But the DH defended the rollout in an official response released last week to previous criticism from the committee in its NHS Next Stage Review report.

‘There is no PCT which would fail to benefit from additional flexibility in how people access GP services,' the DH response said.

The Health Select Committee has condemed the 'ad hoc' rollout of polyclinics and vascular screening

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