Doctors question worth of private screenings

FAMILY doctors across the country have questioned the ethics and value of a Horsham surgery’s controversial plans to run private screening to its patients.

The national medical magazine Pulse has published an article saying the General Medical Council (GMC) guidance is ‘unclear’ about whether it was unethical for Park Surgery to host private heart and stroke screening sessions from Health Screen First.

The surgery said last week any monies from the rent of the surgery to Health Screen First would go to charity, but still the plans has provoked largely negative reaction from fellow GPs commenting on the magazine’s website.

Many highlight the continuing national debate on the Coalition’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill, which is being discussed again in the House of Commons after a defeat in the House of Lords.

Others questioned the value of the screening service to patients. Dr Brian Fisher, a GP in Lewisham, south London, criticised the Albion Way practice for promoting the private service, saying: “This is certainly in the spirit of the current coalition Government’s policies. It’s just the sort of entrepreneurial spirit they’re looking for.

“But I can’t see what benefits patients get from it. And if they’re offering tests that are actually available free on the NHS, I think that seems rather reprehensible.”

Grant Ingrams, GP Partner, said: “This does not seem ethical, either from the point of view of promoting a screening service which does not meet the usual criteria for screening, but more important receiving any fee, as suggested in their letter could be considered as being fee-splitting, or even fall foul of the Bribery Act 2010. I hope they sought appropriate legal advice in advance.”

Geoff Hall, a retired private GP, warned against the practice. He said: “Before I retired, I worked for a private practice in Spain and I was appalled at the number of ‘screening’ services of no known value, which were promoted to make money rather than to prevent disease.

“After a lifetime in the NHS I could not tolerate this way of working, and resigned. I hope that the NHS does not go down the same sorry road.

Others said Park Surgery’s plans were just a flavour of what could become commonplace. An anonymous practice manager commented: “I kinda (sic) like their entrepreneurial approach which, in the current reform climate must surely be admired?

“I’m sure as pressure on practice income increases, established boundaries are eroded and patients are encouraged to shop around when buying – sorry choosing – their primary care, then this is just what the H&SC Bill is designed to achieve? I’m sure we’ll see more of it too.

“As all we know is swept away, the good old days will soon be just a fading memory with a brighter more competitive health market. I for one can’t wait.”

NHS Sussex confirmed last week that Park Surgery went ahead with the first of two sessions on Saturday. The second one is planned for Saturday March 3.