Why January is a testing time for GPs

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 20 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:203
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner (
  1. Glasgow

    Life would be so much easier if I believed that well people should frequently have lots of unvalidated tests. At this time of year, when newspapers devote column inches to health checks that people should have, what an attractive business private healthcare screening appears: self selected, upwardly mobile, possible guilty patients, accompanied by luxury appointment times, and possibly even the fragrance of freshly cut flowers wafting somewhere overhead.

    Of course, I'm not bitter. Not even with the prospect of dealing with surgeries full of patients who have read this stuff. I was pleased to see Scotland's Sunday Herald in a piece called “Checks and balances” (2 January 2005) starting off with stop smoking, drink moderately, do some exercise, and even mentioning sexual health as something to think about getting screened for. But then it got interesting. Self examine your breasts or testicles monthly, the paper said, and although “many basic checks” can be carried out by the NHS, “more invasive checks can'tbe done unless there is definite reason for doing …

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