A government chlamydia-screening programme for 15- to 25-year-olds has wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
It says that just 5% of a target 15% have actually being screened, not enough to have had a significant impact on chlamydia rates, and a third of the £150m intended for the scheme has been spent on other things by health trusts.
It was only when the Department of Health forced PCTs to make it a priority that testing rates increased – to 15.9% in 2008/09 against a 17% target.
The NAO says that the scheme has not proved value for money and predicts that £17m might have been saved in just one year if PCTs had kept their costs to an achievable £33 per test.
Mark Davies, director of health value for money studies at the NAO, reports that roll-out of the programme has taken six years.
He says: "The programme to date has not demonstrated value for money," adding that there had been a "fragmented" approach to delivering what should have been a "fairly straightforward" programme.