Exclusive: PCTs set to extend vascular screening

GP investigation: a third of PCTs plan vascular checks beyond original remit.

GPs face having to screen even more patients under the vascular checks programme than originally planned as PCTs move to expand the initiative before it has even begun, GP can reveal.

The findings of a GP investigation highlight just how widespread local variation is among PCTs across England.

Responses from 70 PCTs to a Freedom of Information Act request show that one in three plan to extend the screening programme beyond its original remit of testing for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease in patients aged 40-74.

Suffolk PCT wishes to extend the programme to all patients, while Southampton and Leeds PCTs plan to lower the age limit for screening to 35.

Sandwell PCT, in the West Midlands, is to target specific high-risk groups including those with mental health problems and learning disabilities and first degree relatives of patients with early acute coronary syndrome.

Milton Keynes PCT is looking at targeting black and minority ethnic groups.

Other PCTs are planning to incorporate more clinical areas into the screening programme.

GPs in Halton and St Helens in Cheshire will be asked to offer spirometry to patients over 35 to pick up signs of COPD.

A number of PCTs, including City and Hackney in London, Bristol and Birmingham East and North, say that they will consider offering checks for AF.

Others have stated that they may screen for abdominal aortic aneurysms, peripheral artery disease and for potential alcohol problems using a short screening questionnaire.

Dr Terry McCormack, former chairman of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society and a GP in North Yorkshire, warned that it would be 'crazy' to lower the screening age to encompass such a wide range of patients.

'There is little evidence for this or to support screening for other clinical conditions and doubts over where the PCTs will find the funding to do this.'

Berkshire GP Dr George Kassianos, a member of the British Cardiovascular Society, added: 'Some PCTs have done nothing, some have introduced the programme and some have introduced and are now expanding it. This is not the way to screen high-risk populations in order to reduce cardiovascular disease.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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