Govt Chlamydia programme ‘failing’

By Doireann Ronayne

The government screening programme for Chlamydia is failing to tackle the rise of the infection, according to an official audit.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found the screening programme for the infection – which can make women infertile – was failing to prevent the spread of Chlamydia, which is common among young people.

“To have a significant impact on Chlamydia requires overall testing levels of 26 per cent or above,” said Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office (NAO).

“Only half of Primary Care Trusts reached this level in 2008-09, six years after the programme’s launch.

“Combined with the local inefficiencies and duplications, this shows that the delivery of the programme to date has not demonstrated value for money.”

In 2008-09, six years after the programme’s launch, testing levels were only just beginning to reach the point where they are likely to significantly reduce the prevalence of Chlamydia.

The screening programme offers tests in various NHS venues such as GP practices, schools, youth centres and even nightclubs and bars.

During 2007-08, nearly five per cent of 15 to 24 year-olds were reported to have been tested, against a target of 15 per cent.

Savings of £17million could have been made in 2008-09 if all NHS primary care trusts had delivered tests for £33, the NAO estimated. The average cost per test delivered was £56.

It is reported that around £100 million has been spent to date but there are no precise figures available on the overall cost of the programme.

More disturbingly, nearly half of young people tested said that they did not receive advice on contraception and safer sex.

Chlamydia, the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted bacterial infection for the under 25s, is easily treated by antibiotics and prevented by using condoms.

The infection is often symptom-less and can cause serious health problems, including ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency that can result in death. It refers to a complication of pregnancy in which the a fertilized egg has implanted outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes.