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Private providers invited to ramp up vascular checks

By Lilian Anekwe

Private providers could be invited to offer patients health checks as the Department of Health looks to ramp up the uptake of its flagship vascular screening programme, it has emerged.

The DH's cardiovascular disease tsar has said the Government were prepared to invite private providers and supermarkets to offer health checks in a bid to ‘up the pace' of the rollout of the programme, in order to meet ambitious targets set by ministers.

It comes after Pulse revealed GPs have been ordered to ramp up their screening of patients at risk of cardiovascular disease, with the NHS setting a target to assess three million people by April 2012.

But a recent Pulse investigation found cash-strapped PCTs were unlikely to meet the targets set for the vascular screening programme, and had already found ‘considerably lower than expected' uptake among high-risk patients – at only 38% of the 185,000 health checks offered last year by PCTs.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event in London, Professor Roger Boyle, national clinical director for health disease, signalled the programme could be opened up to much the wider participation of private providers, in order to reach full rollout of the scheme.

‘Health checks needs to be turned into a major industry', Professor Boyle said. ‘It's too much to expect practices to be able to do it. We need partners to do this.

‘Whether that's any willing provider remains to be seen. But already a lot of pharmacists are doing this and a lot of the big supermarkets are looking at doing this as well.

‘We need to find ways of upping the pact of this to achieve full rollout, and alternative providers are part of the current Government agenda. Simon Burns is asking why there is such large variation within primary care in terms of the delivery of health checks so that's encouraging.'

Ramp up vascular checks