Dr Simon Griffin and colleagues from the Medical Research Council's epidemiology unit compared the government's strategy of screening everyone aged 40-74 for vascular risk with six other selection techniques. They used data from almost 17,000 patients to model the outcome of using the different strategies.
They found that using routine practice data to select high-risk patients was just as effective at preventing new cases of heart disease as screening everyone aged 40-74. Such a strategy would also be cheaper, the researchers said.
Dr Griffin and his team concluded: ‘A universal screening programme for cardiovascular disease might prevent an important number of new cardiovascular events in a population, but it may be unrealistic to implement in increasingly resource constrained health systems... policy makers have to decide on the balance between the number of people needed to screen or treat and the number of cases that can be prevented in the population.'