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GMC spends £35k a year on private health screenings for employees



Exclusive The GMC racked up a bill of tens of thousands last year for private health screenings offered as an employee perk, Pulse has learned.

The regulator said the £182.50-a-go health screens, provided by BMI Healthcare, were intended to ‘support staff in their health and wellbeing’.

The screenings, which include cardiovascular and diabetes tests – some of which are not recommended by the NHS – result in a personalised medical report and a lifestyle consultation.

They form part of a wider benefits package that the GMC offers as part of a bid to ‘attract and retain staff’. But GP leaders said doctors would be ‘appalled’ at the use of their mandatory regulation fees.

Pulse understands that the doctors’ regulator has been offering the private screenings, available to staff every 1-3 years depending on their age, for several years.

In 2017, the GMC spent £34,864 on them.

It comes as the GMC launched a review into its offer of private health insurance to staff in 2012, as it sought ‘efficiency gains’ that would allow it to offer cuts to fees.

This followed Pulse’s revelation that the regulator had racked up an annual spend of £280,000 on the staff perk.

But, although the news caused an outcry among GPs at the time, the scheme was still in place a year later.

Commenting on the private screenings, a GMC spokesperson said: ‘Like many organisations, we offer a range of competitive benefits to attract and retain staff…

‘This is wholly elective and not every staff member will apply. And, as with all our staff benefits, this is reviewed regularly.’

But BMA GP Committee regulation lead Dr Robert Morley said: ‘I expect most doctors will be absolutely appalled that part of their GMC subscriptions are being used for this purpose – bearing in mind the lack of evidence base for most private health screening, the inappropriate additional work it creates for NHS GPs and the currently low standing of GMC in the eyes of the profession.’

A Pulse investigation last year showed that GPs were bearing the brunt of an increase in private companies offering ‘unnecessary’ health screening tests such as clinically unsupported CT scans.

Nearly half of GPs surveyed by Pulse said their workload had risen as a result of patients needlessly concerned by results.

Public Health England uploaded a blog last week asking patients to see their GP if they were displaying worrying symptoms, rather than paying for private screenings that can cause undue worry.

But the GMC spokesperson said: ‘Everyone should have their health checked regularly and these screenings should not create undue concern for patients.’

Meanwhile, a petition calling for the GMC to become funded by taxpayers rather than through annual fees from doctors – launched in light of the regulator’s treatment of struck-off junior doctor Hadiza Bawa-Garba – has fetched 24,000 signatures.

What the GMC-funded employee health screen includes

General

  • Medical and lifestyle questionnaire
  • Dietary assessment
  • BMI Guide to healthy living
  • Personalised medical report and recommendations
  • Lifestyle consultation with nurse

Measurements

  • Blood pressure
  • Body composition (height, weight, hip to waist, BMI and body fat percentage)

Blood tests

  • Lipid profile
  • Check for Diabetes including HbA1c

Other investigations

  • Cardiovascular risk score
  • Urine analysis (3 tests for diabetes infection and kidney function)
  • Vision and hearing

Female-specific tests

  • Breast cancer awareness

Male-specific tests

  • Testicular cancer awareness

Source: BMI Healthcare