The cost of diagnosing Type 2 diabetes mellitus by clinical opportunistic screening in general practice


: Professor Sir Denis Pereira Gray, St Leonard’s Research Practice, Athelstan Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1SB, UK. E-mail:


Diabet. Med. 29, 863–868 (2012)


Aims  Type 2 diabetes is associated with serious complications and shortens life. Its prevalence is increasing rapidly worldwide and no cure is available. One logical response is to diagnose the condition as early as possible. Clinical opportunistic screening is one mechanism for making the diagnosis before symptoms are reported. This paper reports the cost of using this technique in UK general practice.

Methods  In one UK general practice, the electronic medical records were searched to determine the number of blood glucose and oral glucose tolerance tests undertaken for non-pregnant adults without known diabetes over three consecutive years. The laboratory, staff and administrative costs associated with these screening tests were calculated. The records of all patients newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes during the same period were reviewed to identify diagnoses made by clinical opportunistic screening. Total costs were divided by the number of diagnoses to determine a cost per diagnosis detected by opportunistic screening.

Results  During the study period, 5720 screening tests were conducted for 2763 patients. Over the 3 years, 86 patients were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, 54 (63%) via screening (yield 2.0%; number needed to screen 51.2). The screening costs totalled £20 372. The average cost per new screen-detected diagnosis was £377.

Conclusions  Almost two-thirds of new cases of Type 2 diabetes can be detected before symptoms are reported, at reasonable cost by opportunistic screening in general practice, without the use of extra resources. As an affordable alternative to population screening, clinical opportunistic screening merits further consideration.