Town surgery offering patients controversial private check-ups

A HORSHAM surgery is opening its doors to a private company offering patients a full heart and stroke screening for £159.

Park Surgery in Albion Way has sent its patients a letter offering them private health tests from Health Screen First for discounted prices. The same controversial service was offered four years ago.

Dr Simon Dean, senior partner at the surgery, said: “We are repeating something we did in 2008 when there were a lot of private health companies offering services, but patients were unclear what to do with the results and what they meant.

“The tests were being done, the money was being taken but patients were being left high and dry. We teamed up with this company and negotiated the costs down so it was cheaper than anyone else was offering.

“Any abnormal results could be passed on to the patients’ GPs and dealt with. The patients would be clear, we would be clear and the company would be too.

“It worked well in 2008 and the company approached us again.”

Patients can choose between four packages ranging from £40 for a basic health check to £159 for four tests including a 12-lead ECG, an ultrasound scan of the carotid artery to check for a risk of a stroke and a scan of the abdomen to check for aneurysms.

Although the tests being offered by Health Screen First are available on the NHS, they are not all routinely offered to people of all ages.

Dr Dean continued: “NHS screening does not cover Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening for everybody. That’s being offered by this additional screening.

“Since 2008, the NHS has brought in routine AAA screening for men aged between 65 and 74, but the other tests, such as the ECG, are not part of routine NHS screening.

“If patients come to us we can arrange them, but they are not routine.

“In the NHS we always have to think about cost. Here if people want that reassurance, we are offering the service.”

However, the basic health check included in all the Health Screen First packages is the same as the lifestyle check offered for free at the surgery. A spokesman for NHS West Sussex confirmed these would continue.

“We are aware that Park Surgery is working with an external organisation to offer health checks to their patients at special Saturday clinics,” they said

“The practice also offers free NHS Health Checks to all of its patients who are eligible – those aged between 40 and 74 – and actively promotes this at the practice.

“A free NHS Health Check is a great opportunity to make sure that you don’t have any underlying problems which could impact on your health.

“It is a quick and simple check that focuses on preventing major causes of illness, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

“They can help to highlight any potential health issues before they become a problem, and make sure that you get the right support to improve your health for the future.

“In addition to Park Surgery, free NHS Health Checks are available at other participating GP practices in the town, some pharmacies and at special drop-in sessions in the community.”

But Dr Dean warned there was a long wait for these at Park Surgery.

He said: “We are currently calling all our patients aged 40 to 65 who haven’t had lifestyle checks done. They have half an hour with one of our nurses to go through it all, but there are 600 40 to 41-year-olds and this is the problem.

“We have 23,200 patients and a particularly large number in this cohort. [The check up] has a high take up rate.

“We do it here and it tends not to interfere with our clinic because we run it Monday evening and a Saturday afternoon.

“This company is offering a similar service and it is another option for patients.”

Health Screen First has hired the surgery on Saturday February 18 and Saturday March 3.