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Pay battle faces GPs in diabetes screening pilots

GPs piloting a national screening programme for diabetes and vascular disease may be forced to 'scrabble for cash' after the Government failed to ring-fence money for individual practices involved in the scheme.

Pilots of systematic testing for type 2 diabetes in patients with heart disease, previous stroke/TIA or body mass index over 30 are being set up in nine areas in England with high deprivation levels and

a high proportion of ethnic minority patients.

PCTs participating in the two-year pilots, due to start on April 1 in some areas, will each receive £100,000 from the National Screening Committee to fund screening at three local practices.

But dividing up the money has been left to individual PCTs, leading to fears that ­ as with the National Screening Committee's 1999 chlamydia screening pilots ­ the project will be delayed as participating GPs wrangle over pay.

However, National Screening Committee programme director Dr Muir Gray reassured GPs. 'We'll make sure PCTs and practices are not out of pocket as a result of participating in this,' he said.

He defended the decision to allow PCTs to distribute funding 'because there's more than one way of skinning a cat'.

He said: 'It depends on what sort of position the practice is in, for example some will say "we want to tackle everyone", so they'll need funding for that'.

Patients with heart disease or a history of stroke/TIA will be screened for diabetes. Diagnosed diabetics will be screened for heart disease.

Dr Eugene Hughes, a member of the executive of Primary Care Diabetes Europe, criticised the lack of a standard pay deal for practices involved in the pilot. Dr Hughes, a GP on the Isle of Wight, said: 'Often the powers that be expect something for nothing ­ and this is another example.'

He added: 'It's sad they are not seizing the opportunity to have some properly funded pilots rather than having people again scrabbling for the extra cash.'

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