United Kingdom to start proactive screening for
LONDON – Prime
Minister Gordon Brown (pictured) says that healthcare services in the
United Kingdom will start screening high-risk members of the public for
heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, in a bid to dramatically
reduce the numbers of preventable deaths.
In his first major speech on healthcare since becoming Prime Minister,
Brown outlined plans for more diagnostic tests in GP surgeries, such as
blood tests, electro-cardiograms and ultrasounds to cut waiting times.
He said he wanted a more “personalized” NHS with a bigger focus on
Brown said: “There are 200,000 deaths a year from heart and stroke
disease. Many of them, indeed probably most of them, avoidable if we did
the right things.”
He said additional screening should soon be added, for breast cancer for
women, preventative vaccines against cervical cancer and “far more”
being done in relation to aneurysms.
“The whole nature of this is that the health service has really got to
change in its next 60 years from being the curative service – where it’s
done so much good – to being also a preventative service and one that’s
not simply a uniform service, but personal to people’s needs,” said
“So you get to see the doctor you want at the time you want and the
hospital you want, but also a health service organized around your needs
and at the same time, of course, the preventative work.”
Initially the tests will be available to the most “vulnerable”, and
money has been set aside to pay for the procedures in the health budget
for 2008-11, said Brown. He said the government planned to use
advertising to “persuade people” to take the tests.
In his speech, Brown said: “The next stage is offering men over 65 a
simple ultrasound test to detect early abdominal aortic aneurysm... the
weakening of the main artery from heart to abdomen which kills over
3,000 men a year – and this will eventually save more than 1,600 lives
He said Health Secretary Alan Johnson would set up plans to introduce a
series of tests to identify vulnerability to heart and circulation
problems. Vascular screening, to be introduced this year or early in
2009, would include a series of blood, fat and sugar tests in GP
The prime minister said “renewal” of the NHS would be the government’s
highest priority, adding that the aim was “deeper and wider reform” to
create an NHS “that is here for all of us but personal to each of us”.
And he said patients could be given taxpayers’ money to choose their own
health care, by committing himself to the principle of “personal health
Government officials said it was initially only likely to cover patients
suffering from long-term conditions – to allow them to choose the right
treatment for them.
Dr. Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GPs committee at the British
Medical Association, said: “What I do find extraordinary is just two or
three weeks ago the prime minister insisted that funding be taken away
from the treatment of patients with heart failure, hardening of the
arteries and kidney disease – the very conditions that he’s now
proposing to screen for.”