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Tories to review ‘evidence base’ for vascular screening

By Nigel Praities

The vascular screening programme could be scrapped as part of a wide-ranging review of public health programmes conducted by the Conservative Party if they win the forthcoming general election.

In a statement that has shocked leading cardiovascular GPs, a party spokesperson told Pulse they planned an evidence review of all NHS public health programmes and would halt those – such as the vascular checks scheme - without an adequate evidence base.

The spokesman said: ‘All public health programmes that receive taxpayer's money will be continuously evaluated and reviewed to ensure that they are evidence-based, cost-effective and producing identifiable public health benefits.

‘We will be looking to evaluate the evidence for the vascular risk assessment programme rigorously as part of this process.'

The spokesperson went on to say vascular checks was likely to be one of the first victims of the cull as Mr Lansley ‘didn't think there was much of an evidence base for the programme.'

The announcement comes days after Pulse revealed the cost of the scheme varied widely in different parts of the country, with some screens costing as much as £700 per patient.

Leading cardiovascular experts said they were shocked by the move. Professor Mike Kirby, professor of health and human sciences at the University of Hertfordshire and a GP in Radlett, said the announcement would be ‘demoralising' for GPs who were doing good work.

‘You put a lot of effort, thought and training into it. Rather than being hasty, we should look at the good things that are happening and see if we can do things more cost-effectively.'

‘It seems odd when the Tories want to include more preventative medicine in QOF - why spend money there and then take it from probably the world's biggest prevention project?' he added.

Dr Terry McCormack, former chair of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society, admitted the programme had ‘cost more than it should' but there was plenty of indirect evidence it can work.

‘It will have been a great waste of effort if the scheme is scrapped in its infancy and I would encourage Mr Lansley to consider adopting a simplified scheme rather than throwing it out altogether,' he said.

The Conservatives have questioned the evidence base behind the vascular checks programme