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Vascular checks to involve all GP practices

By Nigel Praities

Exclusive: All practices will have to be involved with the Government's national programme of vascular checks even if they have opted out until now, under plans to use GP data for a rigorous ‘call and recall' system.

GPs will either need to chase patients with missing information themselves or sign over data to a screening database for follow-up by their PCT, Pulse has learned.

Connecting for Health is developing a call and recall system based on practice data for everyone aged 40 to 74, and trusts rolling out opportunistic screening will also need to ensure practice-based assessment is done to ensure vulnerable patients do not miss out.

A Pulse investigation earlier this year found trusts were taking hugely varying approaches to vascular checks – with some using GP practice records, and others opportunistic screening in workplaces, pharmacies or shopping centres.

But the Government wants to develop a systematic approach to invitation and follow-up, to counter criticism that the current scheme will widen health inequalities, by being taken up mainly by the worried well.

Proposal are currently being drafted, but Pulse has learned from advisers at the National Screening Committee that a ‘minimum dataset' will be released to PCTs early next year as the first stage.

Mr Christian Martin, chief technology officer at the National Screening Committee, said it had advised using current screening programmes – such as abdominal aortic aneurysm screening – as models for how vascular checks could work.

‘GPs provide a list of men aged 65 and over – the cohort for that programme – which is then used by the screening programme. Early implementer experience suggests collating information from GP systems and use it for call and recall is perfectly feasible.'

The NHS Information Centre confirmed it was working on a list of data that all PCTs should collect to be published next January. A spokesperson said: ‘PCTs will have to collect the information, but in terms of a national collection, that is very much being worked out. It is an ambitious project, but a really worthwhile one.'

The proposals have been met with consternation by some GPs.

Dr Jane Lothian, secretary of Northumberland LMC, said it was currently working with the PCT on a local call and recall scheme, but she had reservations about handing this over to a national body: ‘It is yet another mass transfer of information that is unnecessary. The complexities of transferring this amount of information would make it a very difficult task.'

How the new system could work

1. GP record is the central database for the whole scheme, with an initial clean-up of records where there are holes
2. Data on patients who are aged 40 to 74 and are not on disease registers to be provided to a local or national administrative centre by GP practices
3. Administrative centre invites patients, organises any follow-up appointments and relays information from vascular check back to practices
4. Practice enter this data into their records

Source: National Screening Committee

Dr Jane Lothian: 'It is yet another mass transfer of information that is unnecessary' Dr Jane Lothian: 'It is yet another mass transfer of information that is unnecessary'

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