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Screening on its knees

When the Government first decided to screen for chlamydia, it was heavily influenced by the impressive results of a GP pilot in Portsmouth. It was widely assumed GPs would be handed a lead role in the new programme – along with the necessary resources to do the job. Instead, ministers convinced themselves they could do without general practice. It is safe to say they will be regretting that decision now.

Chlamydia screening has staggered and stumbled since its launch in 2001, but a new NHS evaluation makes clear it is now on its knees. Uptake has lagged far behind the minimum required to have 'any appreciable effect' on chlamydia prevalence or complication rates. And there is no good evidence that screening has been cost-effective.

So now they need GPs

The report highlights the folly of the Government's original decision to sideline GPs. It points out that only in Portsmouth has screening ever achieved the minimum necessary uptake of 50 per cent. And it recommends that GPs and practice nurses be drafted in to save the programme from becoming an embarrassing damp squib.

GPs will be willing enough to do so, in principle at least. But a lot has changed since 2001. With practices already burdened with everything from obesity to chronic kidney disease, another new tranche of work will be viewed with some trepidation. The Government needs to get GPs on board on chlamydia screening, but it will only be able to do so with significant resources.

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