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Posted on 6th March 2017

Private health companies pushing pointless medical examinations

GPs are under further pressure, due to paitents wanting to discuss the results from medical examinations they have paid for privately.

A survey of GPs carried out by the industry magazine for doctors, Pulse, found that GPs in middle class and affluent areas are having to reassure worried patients who have undergone unnecessary and sometimes bogus tests privately.

The tests are often promoted by private clinics as a “health MOT” but can lead to false readings.

The PSA test used to detect prostate cancer is not used by the NHS because it picks out healthy men as well as those with cancer. It is used routinely as part of the “health mot”.

More than half of over 1,000 GP survered said they had extra work because of paitents wanting to discus the results from their private screenings.

Anne Mackie, director of screening programmes at the UK national sceening committee (UK NSC) said: Some of the conditions screened for by private companies are not recommended by the UK NSC and there are concerns that the potential harms of this screening are not clearly presented to the patient. Offering screening without explaining fully the risks relating to false positives, which can lead to raised anxiety and further unnecessary diagnostic tests, and false negatives, which provide false reassurance, is unethical

Many GPs said that the rise in these test had lead to more of their patietns undergoing unnecessary, and often invasive, treatment.

One GP said that one of their patients had a kidney removed privately following a test, only to find the tumour on it was benign.

GP and author, Margaret McCartney believe that private companies should pay for any follow-up appointments their patients have with the NHS following their tests.

“As the NHS system cracks under pressure and private providers increasingly seek to take advantage of this I think we need a new method of ensuring that the NHS does not end up responsible for tests it didn’t order and that aren’t evidence-based.

“We also need much closer regulation of marketing materials by the Advertising Standards Authority, but fundamentally we need some sort of legislation to underscore the principle that these tests are not evidence-based: perhaps an ‘anti-quackery’ clause that all customers must sign before consenting to go through screening”, she continued.

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