Widespread debate needed on 'disease mongering' and overdiagnosis of patients, says RCGP in response to BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine paper on definitions of disease

Publication date: 08 April 2019

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"Disease mongering is scaremongering and it has the potential to cause huge strain for the NHS and  other healthcare systems around the world.

"Giving people unnecessary medical labels causes anxiety and distress and, in the worst cases, causes harm that can ruin lives. It also leads to unnecessary workload burdens in general practice and secondary care, and consumes funding that could be much better spent elsewhere on the care of patients who really need it.

"This is a controversial but ground-breaking paper that should spark a widespread debate on the entire industry that has grown up around disease mongering and overdiagnosis.

"GPs and our teams see over 1m patients a day in England alone. We understand how overdiagnosis adversely affects people - and the associated workload and costs - and we would welcome the opportunity to lead neutral and unbiased discussions with our specialist colleagues and members of the public about how we tackle the issue.

"We also welcome the idea of 'diagnosis reviews' similar to the medication reviews that GP teams already have in place.

"It is ironic that at a time when the health service is buckling under the strain of unprecedented demands, we live in a society where 'want' is increasingly prioritised over genuine 'need'.

"This paper could be just the impetus we need to re-evaluate our priorities for some aspects of patient care."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
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 52,000 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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