RCGP speaks out on "random" health screening

Publication date: 20 August 2013

The Royal College of General Practitioners has responded to the findings from the Nordic Cochrane Centre that mass screening programmes do not bring "any beneficial effects and are likely to lead to unnecessary diagnoses and treatments".

Chair Dr Clare Gerada said:

"GPs already do a lot of work to prevent patients developing diseases by carrying out checks such as blood pressure as part of the routine GP appointment. This is opportunistic screening and GPs will also talk with their patients about potential risk factors.

"The Cochrane Review shows that there is no benefit in terms of health from the mass screening of those who are well. Nor will it reduce the death rate from diabetes, heart and kidney disease

"Through mass screening of untargeted populations, we are identifying risk factors, not diseases, and it is inevitable that we will identify people who might have 'abnormalities'. These will usually disappear or turn out to be irrelevant, but we run the risk of putting people on unnecessary medication or worrying them unduly.

"At a time when the NHS is having to slash its budgets and GPs and practice nurses are already at breaking point as a result of  rising workloads and  dwindling resources, this is not the best use of time or money that should be spent on caring for people who are sick or at high risk of illness. 

"We should be focusing on what we know and the biggest reductions in cancer and cardiovascular disease have come from major public health campaigns such as the ban on smoking in public places."

Further Information

RCGP Press office - 020 3188 7574/7575/7576
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 44,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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