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The News Line: News LARGE-SCALE SCREENING WILL HIT SICK Doctors’ leaders yesterday warned that the government’s proposed screening programme for all those over 40 years of age lacked scientific evidence and could lead to the healthy being seen at the expense of the sick.

Concerns that screening well people could make it more difficult for sick patients to get a GP practice appointment were voiced yesterday by the British Medical Association.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee concluded: ‘Inevitably large-scale screening will impact on access to services for sick patients.’

Commenting on prime minister Brown’s morning announcement that everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 will be entitled to vascular screening, Buckman said: ‘While we would like to welcome this, as prevention is undoubtedly better than cure, we have serious concerns about the pressure this will put on an already overstretched general practice.

‘Over a third of the population fall into this age range which for an average practice means two thousand patients.

‘It could work out at 40 extra appointments a week – and that’s if they only need one appointment.

‘If the process means they need two or three appointments, to ultimately be told they are fit and healthy, then you’re looking at doubling or tripling that number.

‘Whether it is nurses, GPs, healthcare assistants or pharmacists who do these checks, there is not currently the workforce, the time in the day, or even the space in our surgeries to carry out this number of consultations.

‘At the moment all our appointments are booked up with patients who are in immediate need of medical care.

‘General practices already undertake health assessments for new patients covering things such as height, weight, blood pressure and urine testing. Those patients who are at risk regularly have their vascular risk factors checked including their cholesterol.’

At his midday monthly press conference, Brown made it clear that his government was gripped by the world economic crisis and intends to push through public sector cuts and privatisation.

He took the opportunity to repeat claims that freezing public sector pay was holding down inflation.

Asked how his ‘reforms’ differ from his predecessor Blair’s, Brown said ‘now it’s on to a third stage, involving personalisation. People want hospital services based around what is convenient for them, not what is convenient for GPs or hospitals.’

He said that ‘the service personal to people’s needs is what we are talking about for the future’ with ‘consumers’ in the driving seat.

A UNISON spokeswoman responded to this, telling News Line: ‘Most patients want their GP or hospital consultant to steer them to what is best for them.

‘This means a local hospital with good standards of care.

‘The challenge for the government is to raise standards throughout the NHS, and to not pour money into the pockets of private companies.’

Brown added at his press conference that very soon he will issue a ‘call to professionals’ saying he wants to achieve world class services in areas like health, education and social services.
 
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