Depression checks rejected by screening committee as uneconomical

Screening the general population for depression has been ruled out because the currently 'inadequate' care for the condition would make the process uneconomical.

The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) said screening for depressed patients did not meet its criteria for recommendation. It blamed ‘inadequate' systems for managing depression in primary care for the ‘poor result'.

The committee said: ‘Investment in better systems of care for depressed patients who are diagnosed through routine care would be required before screening could be considered.'

Even with adequate systems in place, the prevalence of depression in the general population means that false positives outnumber true positives and often required further clinical assessment, the committee said.

They noted that a decision modelling study suggested that screening is unlikely to represent good value for money, although the cost effectiveness of screening, with or without collaborative care, has not been assessed in randomised studies.

The committee's report updated their last policy advice from 2006, which also ruled out screening for depression.

The NSC also decided against recommending screening for haemochromatosis and thrombophilia, after its review of the latest evidence.

It said there was a lack of consensus over the problems that screening for haemochromatosis should seek to prevent.

Screening for thrombophilia in the general population and in pregnant women was also rejected.

The evidence for screening for the three conditions will be reviewed again in 2013/14.

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