With only 25 per cent of PCTs in England offering screening to men and women aged 16–24, Ms Flint admitted more effort was needed if the DoH was to implement the NCSP across England by the end of 2007 as planned.
National support teams are to be funded to help the 10–20 per cent of PCTs struggling to carry out chlamydia screening, in addition to £80 million being invested in the NCSP over 2006/7. However, the funding allocation is indicative and not ring-fenced like other allocations to PCTs.
Dr Nicki Saulsbury, GUM consultant at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, said: ‘SHAs are taking the money away. It does not reach the PCTs.’
Mary Macintosh, director of the NCSP, said GP participation was vital if there was to be a significant increase in the number of young adults being offered chlamydia screening.
But Ms Flint insisted GPs would not be expected to take on extra work to meet targets.
‘We are not asking for extra workforce,’ she said.
‘Although GPs are the first point of contact, services can be provided elsewhere. The community, hospitals and GPs should all be working and communicating together. It is not just the role of GPs’
GPs should, however, give patients information about local services offering chlamydia screening, said Ms Flint.
North London GP Dr Richard Ma, a member of the NCSP steering group, said that making chlamydia an indicator in the quality framework was an important step.
‘I am very pleased its inclusion is under review,’ he said. ‘We need to support its inclusion and provide more evidence for its inclusion as well as increasing canvassing.’
Chlamydia tests are relatively simple and clinics run by practice nurses would be a feasible way of dealing with the workload from a screening programme, he added.
‘It is easy to do, just take a urine sample or a swab,’ said Dr Ma. ‘It is something that a practice nurse could perform — the point of contact with a GP can be minimal.’