Experts signal CVD screening go-ahead

National Screening Committee recommends four screening sessions a week per GP practice.

Gordon Brown

The DoH is still determining if its national cardiovascular disease (CVD) screening programme is feasible, despite prime minister Gordon Brown announcing the plans in January.

The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) has released guidance on how CVD screening would operate.

For an average practice of 6,000 patients, this would result in 140 half-hour screening sessions per year, equivalent to three or four a week.

The NSC was originally reluctant to recommend a national CVD screening programme, but its latest report says a population-wide screening programme is feasible, 'even in the most deprived inner-city practices'.

The evidence recommends conducting a vascular risk assessment on all patients aged 40-74, every five years (see box). Patients would be invited to screening by letter.

The NSC calculates that the average practice would diagnose four new cases of diabetes mellitus and 17 new diagnosis of impaired glucose regulation per year.

Mr Brown suggested in January that screening for CVD, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, stroke risk and chronic lung diseases would become available to anyone, regardless of their risk profile.

A DoH spokeswoman said economic modelling work to look at the feasibility of vascular risk screening is under way.

But Professor Richard Hobbs, member of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society and a GP in Birmingham, said: 'It would be much more appropriate to get a high-risk screening programme off the ground first, and then see if a national programme could be cost-effective.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said CVD screening would require an increase in GP workload and resources.

'The biggest risk is causing anxiety in otherwise well patients through false positives,' he added.

GP reported in June last year that the DoH had scrapped its national CVD screening programme plan for over-40s because it was ineffective.

Elsewhere, the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes have reported problems with uptake among the south Asian community.

Patients are half as likely to take up an invitation for bowel cancer screening and 15 per cent less likely to attend breast cancer screening than non-Asian patients, according to research from Warwick University.

Vascular risk assessment handbook

Vascular Screens

  • BMI measurement
  • Waist circumference
  • BP
  • Fasting blood glucose
  • Lipid levels
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Smoking habit
  • Family history of CHD
  • Diabetes risk score.
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