My son (who moved out, finally, about 12 years ago) received an invitation sent to our address today. It was from Life Line Screening, and was signed by Karen R Law RDMS, RDCS, RVT. Karen clearly felt that my son, a fit 32-year-old, was in the at-risk group for carotid atheroma, aortic aneurysm, asymptomatic atrial fibrillation and osteoporosis. They offered to free him from his intolerable burden of worry concerning these life-threatening conditions using ‘cutting edge’ ultrasound and ECG technology (and presumably DEXA scanning for the osteoporosis, although they didn’t go into details about that, presumably because they felt their target population – i.e. everyone with more money than sense – wouldn’t understand it).
Now I don’t know what RDMS, RDCS and RVT stand for, but I am sure they are bona fide qualifications and that Karen and her colleagues are capable of performing the scans they are offering. In fact, I quite admire people who spot a gap in the market and set out to fill it; or at least, I do if no-one gets hurt in the process.
However, although Matt is a sensible chap (how could it be otherwise, with me as his father?), and was about to consign his letter to the bin when I asked if I could have a look at it, these indiscriminate mailings do have their victims. There are plenty of worried well people out there who would be concerned to hear the story of Sidney Larcomb from Walsall, whose surgeon said that his narrowed carotid arteries were ‘a disaster waiting to happen’, and whose life was undoubtedly saved by responding to Karen’s timely offer of screening. Of course, for every Sidney Larcomb, there will be a hundred or more Mathew Burys, who were never at significant risk of any of these conditions in the first place. And it will be the NHS (‘your full results report will be posted to you so that you can share with your GP’) that has to pick up the fall-out from all the false positives.
I’ve blogged before on the topic of ‘whole-body MOT tests’ using CT, and the impending tightening-up of the ionising radiation legislation to regulate with these self-referral enterprises. Ultrasound doesn’t use ionising radiation, the equipment is relatively cheap and I assume that any Tom, Dick or Harry setting up a screening service is bound only by the regulations governing advertising and the sale of goods. Even so, I can’t help feeling that Life Line Screening are sailing pretty close to the wind if they are sending out indiscriminate mailshots of the type received by my son.
Still, vote for that nice Mr Cameron, and I’m sure he’ll put a stop to this sort of irresponsible free enterprise. Oh, wait a minute, he’s a Tory, isn’t he?