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Tuesday 6th December 2016
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Doctors attack 'scare tactics' used by private companies

7th January 2013

The chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee has criticised the use of "scare tactics" by private screening companies in order to get people to spend money on their services.

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Laurence Buckman said: "I am very sceptical of the claims made by screening companies."

Many companies which offer screening for health problems such as heart disease and colon cancer write directly to people offering to see them at a screening event in their local area.

Many of the scans offered by private companies would be offered for free by the NHS and health service screening programmes are provided only when data exists to prove the benefits of screening outweigh the risks.

Dr Buckman said: "Healthcare screening by private companies is a waste of money. If anyone receives one of these direct marketing letters, I suggest they put it straight into the bin." 

He added that even if someone had a good result from an ECG scan, it did not mean they would never have a heart attack and the companies were trading on people's desire for "reassurance".

The Guardian reports that many people are not aware that some of the scans they offer could be detrimental to their health.

The paper said a Which? survey published in 2012 showed that a researcher was made an offer of lung scans by four out of five companies they visited, even though a government body had advised such scans should not be offered.

Charles Warlow, emeritus professor of medical neurology at Edinburgh university, said: "The situation with these private for-profit health screening companies is getting worse. Some people are being completely taken in by the sales and marketing tactics.

"If you do get a marketing letter or see an advert that uses scare tactics like this, I'd recommend making a complaint about it to the General Medical Council." 

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