'40 appointments a week for screens'

The government's vascular screening plan for all over-40s to cost £250 million a year.

The DoH is injecting £250 million a year into a vascular screening programme for everyone in England aged 40 to 74.

The scheme will be rolled out in 2009/10, with three million people a year to be targeted.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said the £250 million will cover staffing costs, carrying out the tests and any follow-up care needed.

GP practices will not carry out the tests alone, said Mr Johnson, adding: 'We see pharmacies playing a big role here because they're accessible.

'Brought down to the GP surgery level it is seven appointments a week,' he said.

However, this contrasts with an estimated 40 extra appointments a week for the average practice, cited by GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman.

'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,' he said.

At the moment, screening will be for vascular risks such as atheroma and will comprise a basic questionnaire, as well as measurement of height, weight and BP and a blood cholesterol test (see below).

Everyone aged 40 to 74 will be invited to screening once every five years. As a result of screening, patients will be told their risk profile and given advice on how to reduce their risk and, if needed, may be given scrips for statins or BP drugs.

However, despite prime minister Gordon Brown's pledge in January for a single cardiovascular check to cover a range of conditions, the DoH now says any screening for diabetes or chronic kidney disease will be done on a targeted rather than a population level.

Details of how the scheme is to work and the funding allocated is still to be decided.

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

DoH screening plan

Vascular test

  • Questionnaire: age, sex, family history, smoking status, current medication.
  • Measurements: height, weight, BP.
  • Tests: blood cholesterol, with glucose and kidney function if warranted.
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