Boots pharmacies have begun offering free diabetes risk assessments in all stores, in a scheme GPs warn could see an ‘enormous influx’ of patients into practices.
The scheme involves pharmacists using a recognised diabetes risk score to assess the risk of patients developing type 2 diabetes, with those deemed high risk advised to see their GP.
The scheme has been rolled out in conjunction with charity Diabetes UK, and will see pharmacists offering advice on lifestyle changes and how to prevent the onset of diabetes.
GPs have welcomed the scheme, but say that it could lead to duplication of tests and should be carried out in practices.
Participants will answer seven questions related to age, gender, waist circumference, BMI, ethnic background, blood pressure and family history- in a Diabetes Risk Assessment tool developed by the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in collaboration with Diabetes UK.
One of the researchers who developed the tool, Professor Kamlesh Khunti, professor of primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at the University of Leicester, said the scheme was a good idea ‘overall’, but that he was worried it was not integrated with other schemes.
He said: ‘I’d be concerned about a lot of duplication of tests. People might have had the test in NHS Health Checks, at their GP and now at the pharmacy too. It might lead to unnecessary checks and a lot of people chasing for resources.’
Dr Simon Griffin, assistant director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and a GP in Cambridge, voiced concerns over the impact the risk assessments could have on general practice.
He said: ‘Rather than having everyone in general practice being screened with blood tests, stratifying the population with some kind of screening is probably sensible.
‘My concerns would be that it might produce an enormous influx of patients into general practice and general practice isn’t prepared for that. Is general practice sufficiently resourced to give advice? I don’t think we have enough dieticians or exercise physiologists for referrals.’
Dr Alan Begg, a GP in Montrose, Scotland, said: ‘The idea is a good idea. It’s fine for it to be done in pharmacies but I would say ideally it should be done in general practice and should be properly funded. This really should be done under QOF.’
Last year, GPs were urged to screen all patients aged over 40 years and offer annual checks to those at high risk of diabetes in a major drive to reduce the numbers of patients developing the disease launched by NICE.
Peter Bainbridge, director of pharmacy at Boots UK, said: ‘Our customers come to our healthcare teams for information and advice on how they can make positive changes to their health.
‘This service meets these needs by raising awareness of the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes and helping not only to identify people who may develop it in the future but, importantly, give them the right support and advice to manage any potential risk.’
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: ‘Having risk assessments available for free in the heart of people’s communities will make it easier for people to access them and so increase the number of people who are aware of whether they are at risk. This is why we are delighted to be working with Boots UK to make risk assessments available in-store.’