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Independents' Day

MPs expose 'scandal' of GPs forced to use poor chlamydia test

GPs should offer routine opportunistic chlamydia testing to all patients under the age of 25 whatever their sexual history, an influential committee of MPs has demanded.

The Commons health select committee also called for more incentives and training to encourage GPs to shoulder a greater burden of sexual health care.

The committee's damning report on the state of sexual health services, published last week, said it was 'scandalous' 95 per cent of GPs were still forced to use the 'sub-optimal' enzyme immuno-assay (EIA) test for chlamydia, given its high rate of false negatives.

The MPs demanded immediate steps to extend availability of the more accurate polymerase chain reaction test ­ currently available to only 5 per cent of GPs.

Their report warned that health providers would be 'highly vulnerable to damages claims made by patients who had received a false negative diagnosis' from the EIA test.

Ministers were criticised for delaying the roll-out of a national chlamydia screening programme.

The first 10 sites in the pilot phase of the screening programme will focus on GUM clinics ­ but the MPs urged all GPs to 'routinely offer testing to those aged under 25 without attempting to second-guess patients' sexual behaviour'.

The committee also warned: 'We have not been assured GPs will receive sufficient training and support to deliver services effectively, nor that PCTs will provide sufficient encouragement to GPs to offer improved sexual health services.'

Committee member Dr Richard Taylor, a retired rheumatologist and independent MP for Wyre Forest, said the new GMS contract proposal for a national enhanced service covering sexual health failed to address the concerns. He told Pulse GPs would need to see improvements 'economically, financially and staff-wise' before they could take on a greater sexual health care role.

Dr Chris Ford, chair of the RCGP sex, drugs and HIV task group and a GP in north London, acknowledged in evidence she gave the committee GPs were providing sexual health services regardless of their ability or experience. 'Primary care cannot take on this role if there are not well-supported specialist services.'

What incentives would persuade you to provide more sexual health care?

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