GPs 'pick up tab' for private screening errors

Screening - False positives from private screening facilities drives rise in patients seeking reassurance from GPs.

GPs are having to deal with an increasing number of patients presenting with false positive results picked up by private health screening, a leading GP has warned.

Speaking at a debate on health screening in central London this month, Dr Keith Hopcroft, a GP in Basildon, Essex said that the NHS was picking up the tab for private companies offering whole body CT scans.

'You have a one-in-three chance of a false positive result if you have a full body CT scan. There is also a one in 20 chance that the scan will miss signs of disease.'

Dr Hopcroft criticised private health screening for using invalid tests to screen for conditions, and warned that private screening was sending out a bad message to an unsuspecting public.

'The public are being told not to trust their bodies and not to look for symptoms of disease but to be checked before signs of disease even develop. It is not medicine as we know it,' he said.

But Dr John Giles, a consultant radiologist in Hastings, East Sussex and clinical director of Lifescan, a firm that offers scans, denied that the company offered inappropriate whole body screening or that screening caused false positives.

'It is targeted screening to look at the lungs, the heart, the abdomen and the pelvis.

'The screening also picks up any cases of osteoporosis, kidney cancer and renal stones.'

Dr Giles added that there was a genuine need for health screening given that the UK has the lowest cancer survival rates in Europe.

Dr Peter Mace, assistant medical director of Bupa and a former GP, stressed that the firm offers evidence-based health assessments designed to give patients an idea of their current health.

'Three-quarters of patients who have a Bupa health assessment go on to make a positive change to their lifestyle.

'Ninety-seven per cent of the 15,000 customers surveyed following a health assessment were happy with the service.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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