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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Screening committee aims to curb rise in private tests

By Lilian Anekwe

The UK National Screening Committee is to produce guidance for GPs on which private health tests are safe to recommend to patients, in response to growing concerns over the pressure screening companies are placing on the NHS.

Pulse learned of the move as part of a major investigation into the health screening industry, which found four in five GPs had seen patients at their surgery about suspected problems uncovered by private tests and scans.

Just over a third of GPs said they did not believe the NHS should be liable for the care of suspected problems uncovered by private screening, while another 19% were not sure who should be liable. Fewer than half said the NHS should be responsible.

The new guidance, currently being drawn up and to be issued to GPs and the public in the summer, will clarify which of the myriad of health tests and scans available in the private sector are backed by evidence, and which are not.

Dr Anne Mackie, director of programmes for the National Screening Committee, said: ‘We would strongly recommend that anyone who is worried about their health, and their risk of certain conditions, should visit their GP in the first instance. The committee will be sending out guidance to GPs this summer and will also be developing advice for the public on this issue.'

Bolton GP Dr Krishna Kolipara said: 'Too many patients go to see their own GP with problems identified by private screening services without clear evidence or standard tests to substantiate the presence of pathological conditions.

‘No advice is given as to how the condition should be treated, and the result is that too many well patients, go to their own GP worried by the results given by these private companies. Private companies are more interested in profits rather than patient welfare.'

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