The RCGP has laid out five tests to scrutinise the benefits and harms of any new health policies, following GPs’ concerns that a number of recent programmes and guidelines are not backed by evidence and may even cause harm through overdiagnosis.
The rules are laid out in a new policy document developed by the college’s standing group on overdiagnosis.
They include making sure GPs are given enough information to help shared decision making with patients, and providing clarity over the evidence for recommendations or screening, including any uncertainties.
The group says use of these tests could have helped raise greater awareness of the potential harms of initiatives such as the recent dementia screening enhanced services and the introduction of lower blood glucose targets for patients with diabetes in QOF, which have since been relaxed in the light of new evidence.
The tests are to be used by the RCGP in future whenever it is developing or is invited to approve clinical policies, statements or guidelines.
Dr Margaret McCartney, chair of the standing group, told Pulse: ‘What this is saying is, you can’t just put policies out there because it sounds like a good idea. You have to show it’s a good idea, show evidence for it and crucially explain where there is uncertainty.’
Dr McCartney said the group is currently working on a new website to provide information and resources ‘which GPs might find useful to try and get the balance between benefit and harm right more often for their patients’.