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Patients warned about private health screening after Pulse investigation

Public Health England has repeated a warning to patients to avoid private health screenings which may do more harm than good.

It said that if a person is experiencing symptoms, they should visit their GP rather than pay for a private screening.

The bulletin, from PHE screening information lead Nick Johnstone-Waddell, referred to a Pulse investigation which found that private companies are promoting non-NHS health screening checks in an unethical way.

The NHS currently provides a number of screening tests – including for example pre-natal and cancer screens – but PHE said that while some are useful in preventing or reducing the risk of disease, with regards to others ‘it is not clear the benefits outweigh the harms’.

It said: ‘The NHS, taking advice from the UK National Screening Committee, only runs screening programmes when good evidence shows the benefits outweigh any risks.

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‘We also offer a complete service, not just a test – making sure you understand why you’ve been offered screening, what the outcomes might be, if there are any downsides and what your options are for each outcome. We make sure any possible care or treatment needed is in place.’

PHE further said it will not be re-printing the existing NHS leaflet on the topic, but copies can be requested until 16 March.

Last year, a Pulse survey of GPs found half had seen their workload increased due to patients wanting to discuss results from private screenings, many of which were non-evidenced based.

At the time, BMA called for ‘much tighter’ regulations to be brought in concerning private screenings.

And PHE issued GP advice on NHS recommendations regarding a large number of different types of private screenings.