Focusing on prevention is a positive move by the Government and could enhance care for patients, but doctors are concerned that proposals to introduce a national health screening programme have not been properly thought through.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GPs Committee said:
"We would like to be able to say that we fully support this new initiative - focusing on prevention should certainly be congratulated - but as ever the practical considerations have not been properly thought through. There has been no attempt to talk to GPs about how these proposals might work.
"Patients will clearly benefit from earlier detection of disease and GPs have been participating in national programmes to screen patients for illnesses such as diabetes and kidney disease for many years. However, there is currently a shortage of staff to carry out diagnostic scans, so an expanded screening programme would also require a significant expansion of both personnel and scanning equipment.
"The implications for hospitals are also likely to be considerable should patients require further treatment and we hope the Government has planned for the inevitable increase in hospital and laboratory services.
"Ironically when GPs offered to provide new screening services just two weeks ago, the Government turned them down and threatened to withdraw the funding*1. In particular, they said they did not want to increase the support given to the management of patients with kidney disease. They are clearly incapable of joining the dots when it comes to health policy."
Using the private sector to help deliver the screening programme would also be unwise. Dr Buckman adds: "If the Government relies on the private sector to deliver its new screening programme, the real winners will be the shareholders."