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RCGP council to launch working group on overdiagnosis and overtreatment

The RCGP has set up a standing group to examine the harms of overdiagnosis and overtreatment and help inform more useful guidelines for GPs in the management of patients with multiple conditions, Pulse has learnt.

The group will be led by RCGP council member Dr Margaret McCartney and is set to launch formally in October, at the RCGP’s annual conference in Liverpool.

The standing group was approved at the last Council meeting to ‘examine and contribute to the debate on harms from overdiagnosis, overtreatment and disease mongering’.

Dr McCartney told Pulse the group will meet ‘virtually’ in between conferences to save on costs, as the College had not approved any specific funding, with a view to producing two pieces of work over the course of the next eighteen months to two years.

Key areas the group will consider are the impact of overdiagnosis and overtreatment on health inequalities, the need for policies – such as health checks and dementia screening – to consider potential harms and how to give GPs greater support to act professionally where that means ignoring harmful or unhelpful guidelines to treat patients holistically.

Dr McCartney said Somerset GP Dr Julian Treadwell will also be ‘heavily’ involved with the group, informing his work with NICE in the development of multimorbidity guidance.

Dr McCartney said: ‘We really want much more GP involvement in the way guidelines are written – at the moment guidelines are written by specialists for patients with one disease, they’re not written for real life.’

She added: ‘It’s pretty scandalous that NICE has approved a new risk threshold [for cardiovascular primary prevention] without furnishing GPs and patients with useful tools to help make those kinds of decisions, instead of scrambling around doing QIntervention – which is the 2013 version not 2014 – to try and show the risks and benefits.’

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