Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The value of conducting periodic health checks

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 20 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7775

Rapid Response:

Re: The value of conducting periodic health checks

The UK-NSC, the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have recently expressed concern regarding the potential harms for healthcare screening. In summary, the BMA and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges issued a statement that there are significant risks with direct-to-consumer tests and many tests are unreliable and inaccurate. In addition, in their joint statement it was mentioned that is impossible for people to distinguish between private testing services that may do some good, and those of no value or even potentially harmful. The UK-NSC agrees that there are a number of accepted principles of screening that the NHS professionals should adhere to: only offer screening if there is proven evidence that, overall, the benefits of screening outweigh the potential harms. This means that screening should not be offered in the absence of known evidence.

Surprisingly, healthcare companies, including BMI Healthcare, BUPA and Nuffield Healthcare, were found to offer screening tests with no proven benefits causing unnecessary worry to patients, resulting in higher insurance premiums, inadequate information and increased number of referrals to NHS GPs. These conclusions were expressed by an expert panel (including members of the UK-NSC) that assessed the findings and reports of screening programmes offered by the above named companies.

The health screening market was assessed to be worth around £100 million in 2009 (data from Laing & Buisson). It is quite clear, therefore, that there is a consolidated interest in protecting the “status quo” of the screening industry.

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 December 2012
Ferruccio De Lorenzo
Consultant Physician
Lipid Disorders & CVD Prevention Clinic, Hammersmith Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London
Du Cane Road, London