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Saturday 22nd October 2016

Are heart tests a waste of resources?

26th April 2010

Research by scientists at Cambridge University has suggested that nationwide heart screening tests could squander time and money.


Every person in England between the ages of 40 and 74 is to receive an invitation from their GP for tests to check for early indications of heart disease.

The programme was publicised in 2008 but has not been completely launched in England. At the time of launch, the result of the tests was declared to have the potential to stop 9,500 heart attacks and strokes annually.

The cost of the programme is thought to be around £250 million.

The researchers said testing only people who were at a "higher risk" of heart problems could prevent the same amount of deaths and would not be as expensive.

The results of the Cambridge team's research was published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers, headed by Dr Simon Griffin from the MRC epidemiology unit in Cambridge, drew comparisons between the scheme and a selection of alternatives.

These encompassed closing the age criteria for tests to between 50 and 74, sending invites only to people with weight problems, employing a "heart disease risk questionnaire" and using information contained in electronic patient records to determine the people at highest danger of heart problems.

The team said the final alternative was less expensive than the testing programme and would probably be as successful. The researchers said offering tests to everyone could be "unrealistic to implement".

"Policy makers have to decide on the balance between the number of people needed to screen or treat and the number of cases that can be prevented in the population," they said. 


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