A GP practice has used its patient list to distribute marketing material for a company offering private screening for heart conditions and stroke risk.
The letter, seen by HSJ, was sent to patients of Park Surgery in Horsham, West Sussex, offering a package of four tests for £159 including a 12-lead resting electro cardiogram heart trace and ultrasound tests.
The practice will receive a “nominal fee” from Health Screen First Ltd to cover the cost of using the surgery on a Saturday for the screening and for “providing supporting services”.
Signed by all 10 of the practice’s GPs, the letter states the service is unsuitable for people who already have a heart condition but is “intended for those who may be at risk but showing no obvious symptoms”. The practice claims it has passed on no patient information to the company.
However, other GPs claim the tests are unnecessary and prey on the concerns of the “worried well”.
Royal College of GPs chair Claire Gerada told HSJ she could not comment on services provided by individual practices but would “expect” GPs to to discuss concerns patients have about their heart health during regular consultations.
She added: “No-one should feel obliged to pay for and undergo tests that would, if necessary, be available on the NHS.”
The letter from Health Screen First that claims the package of tests “is over £400 cheaper than the typical cost in a private hospital”.
It advises patients the complete package is the “best choice” for those worried about their health but “choosing one or more tests is a good way to start”.
Dr Louise Irvine, a south London GP and a member of Keep our NHS Public, said: “Using GP lists to promote this service begs the question - where will it all end? There is a conflict of interest and this will undermine patient trust in their GP.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Sussex said the primary care trust was aware Park Surgery was working with an external organisation to offer health checks to its patients but did not express any concern.
The Park Surgery did not comment.