Exclusive: Third of PCTs stall on vascular checks

More than a third of England's PCTs have yet to carry out any vascular checks, nine months after the DoH said they would begin, GP newspaper can reveal.

Dr Finlay: 'It’s a simple check to put in place. It should be easy to get providers to take this on'
Dr Finlay: 'It’s a simple check to put in place. It should be easy to get providers to take this on'

Even among trusts that have started NHS Health Checks, half have screened less than 5 per cent of those patients eligible for assessment.

Just five PCTs have assessed the 20 per cent of patients that the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society (PCCS) estimates will be necessary if trusts are to offer screening to all eligible people by 2012/13 as planned.

The checks were due to begin last April and SHAs will be expected to report to the DoH on progress on vascular checks later this year.

But responses from 106 PCTs to a freedom of information (FOI) request by GP have revealed the slow implementation of the programme.

So far, 360,719 checks have been performed by the 106 PCTs that responded to the FOI request, equivalent to around 508,000 checks across England. This is about half the one million checks that the DoH committed to delivering by April.

Eleven trusts said that they would not begin conducting any vascular checks until the 2010/11 financial year. Two PCTs said that they may not even start a screening programme, because its launch would be dependent on funding being approved.

Dr Stewart Findlay, a County Durham GP and PCCS member, said PCTs should not have found the checks difficult to implement.

'It's a simple check to put in place,' he said. 'It should be easy to get providers to take this on.'

However, research undertaken by the PCCS suggests that some PCTs that have not yet started carrying out checks have no intention of doing so, according to PCCS chief executive Dr Fran Sivers.

Cambridge GP Dr Mike Knapton, who is associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said it was 'disappointing' that progress on the checks was not being made as quickly as expected.

Responding to fears that a Tory government could scrap the checks, Dr Knapton said that, rather than scaling back efforts, there should be a renewed strategic push on cardiovascular disease if future health problems were to be avoided.

A spokeswoman said the DoH was 'firmly committed' to health checks and had made extra funds available to PCTs.

'Evidence shows it is clinically and cost effective, with the potential for the prevention and early detection of thousands of cases of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease,' she said.

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