General practice to pilot chlamydia screening
THE announcement of a pilot general practice-based chlamydia screening program in the federal Budget sets the scene for a future national program, with GP incentive payments flagged as a possible option to boost uptake.
Experts had previously highlighted the need for chlamydia screening to increase significantly to combat the spiralling rates of the disease.
The program will be conducted in 65 general practices across Australia over a two-year period from 2009-10.
The trial report, due in 2011, would provide evidence on whether testing for chlamydia was feasible and cost-effective enough to warrant the introduction of a national chlamydia testing program, according to Budget papers.
Study leader Dr Jane Hocking (PhD), senior lecturer in the Key Centre for Women’s Health at the University of Melbourne, said an incentive payment (PIP) scheme, similar to that for immunisation or Pap smears, was under consideration as a way to increase screening rates in general practice.
Dr Hocking said most experts believed a chlamydia screening program was best run through general practice. However, she acknowledged that the screening would be an extra task for GPs.
“Over 80% of women under 25 and about 70% of men under 25 do visit a GP for their own health at least once a year,” she said. “If you want to reach the majority of them for an annual check, probably general practice, in the long term, is the best way to try and reach them.”
She said it was hoped that all sexually active women, and possibly men, aged 16 to 25, would be screened annually in accordance with the RACGP Red Book.