A programme that checks young people for the sexually transmitted infection chlamydia is failing to hit its targets, figures show.

The national chlamydia screening programme aimed to test 17 per cent of 15 to 24 year olds in England for the disease between April 2008 and March 2009, but only managed 15.9 per cent.

Half of the 10 strategic health authorities in the country failed to reach the target. These were East Midlands, East of England, South East Coast, South Central, and West Midlands.

London saw the greatest number of young people screened - at 18.1 per cent - while only 12.3 per cent had tests in the South East Coast region.

Community contraceptive clinics, some further education colleges, and more recently postal testing kits and pharmacies have all facilitated testing since the national chlamydia screening programme started to be phased in around April of 2003.

More than 750,000 young people were screened under the programme last year with a further 305,000 undergoing tests not directly related to the programme, such as at GP surgeries.

The figures released do not include testing carried out in genitourinary medicine sexual health clinics.

Overall, an average of 7.3 per cent of those screened under the programme tested positive.