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Trusts to miss chlamydia deadline

A third of primary care organisations are set to miss the Government's deadline for having chlamydia screening in place, a Pulse survey reveals.

Some PCOs are struggling to implement screening even by the end of the year as they battle with the corrosive effects of NHS deficits.

The news follows Pulse's revelation in January that PCOs were failing to invest in laboratory services for screening because of lack of cash.

A survey of 41 PCOs found 30 per cent had no current screening programme – just weeks from the Government's March 2007 deadline.

Only 10 per cent of PCOs were providing any financial incentives to GPs for offering chlamydia screening, even though experts have warned the programme will only be a success with the involvement of general practice.

Dr Stephen McKenning, a GP in Portsmouth who participated in a chlamydia screening pilot, said he doubted GPs would screen for chlamydia opportunistically unless they were resourced.

'This is something that it appears the Department of Health expects as a freebie and it ain't gonna happen.

'I don't know anyone at the department who would work for free. Given the amount of extra time it takes and extra work it creates for our staff, it's ludicrous.'

Clare Bale, public health manager for Nottinghamshire teaching PCT, said trusts were being forced to prioritise their finances but insisted they continued to invest significantly in sexual health.

'We don't have any enhanced services for asymptomatic screening for chlamydia,' she said. 'If we're going to develop it we need to make sure the funding is there before we allow and encourage GPs to be involved.'

A second survey by the Terrence Higgins Trust of 65 PCOs found two-thirds were diverting money away from sexual health services. More than half said they often or sometimes had to turn patients away.

Lisa Power, head of policy at the trust, said: 'Ringfencing is not politically popular, but it would seem to be the only way to ensure money for sexual health services is not diverted elsewhere. Where the money does get through, improvements are being made.'

PCTs lagging behind on screening

Shropshire County and Telford and Wrekin PCTs Anticipate bringing in full screening by the end of this year 'subject to the necessary finance'

South-west Essex PCT Plans 'partial' implementation of screening this year, through a National Chlamydia Specialist Programme

Stockport PCT No current screening programme – plans under discussion in local development plan negotiations

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire PCTs Plans for a screening programme starting in April 'subject to finalising budgets'

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