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MPs criticise ‘shameful’ chlamydia screening programme

By Nigel Praities

Local implementation of the chlamydia screening programme is ‘fragmented and inefficient’ and should be replaced with a nationally-run scheme, according to an influential group of MPs.

In a strongly-worded report from the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts published today, they say PCTs were not up to the job of commissioning efficient local services and accused the Government of a ‘lack of urgency’ over getting the scheme in place.

They also criticised the Government for having no method of measuring the programme’s impact on chlamydia infections and said £40m could be saved on the cost of the programme if every PCT was forced to provide screening for £33 per test.

They recommended the Department centralises procurement of testing, shuts down local screening offices and puts in place a national ‘model contract’ to ensure value for money – once again raising the prospect of a standardised system of payments to GPs for chlamydia screening rather than local LES agreements.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee, said: ‘This is a classic example of what can happen when the responsibility for delivering a national initiative is pushed down to local level, with little thought about the mechanisms and interventions needed at national and regional level to maintain efficiency and momentum.’

The report follows an equally critical report from the National Audit Office last November on the programme and will pile pressure on the Government to introduce a national specification for the scheme.

Conservative health spokesperson Anne Milton said the report showed the Government thought ‘throwing money at a problem’ would solve it.

‘Chlamydia screening is a crucial part of improving young people’s sexual health but at times when money is tight it is shameful of the Government to come forward with such ill conceived, ill thought out and ineffective ideas,’ she said.

Pulse revealed last year that the Health Protection Agency was working on a costing review that would recommend costs per chlamydia screen.

A DH spokesperson defended the screening programme: ‘An ambitious new programme on this scale takes time to perfect and improve,’ she said.

MPs have criticised the Government’s Chlamydia screening programme