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Testing time for health at home.

Byline: By Julie Cush

More and more patients are turning their backs on doctors and opting to diagnose themselves at home, new research has revealed.

Sales of blood pressure monitors, blood glucose testers and pregnancy kits have rocketed in recent years and are expected to increase in the future, according to a report by market analysts Mintel.

Researchers found that last year, almost pounds 54.3m was spent on self-diagnostic products, compared to pounds 41.2m five years ago - an increase of more than 30 per cent.

Long waits to see a GP and an increasingly health-conscious population are among the factors thought to contribute to the booming sales.

Mintel also discovered that almost six in 10 Britons have at least one self-diagnostic product at home, with the simple thermometer being the most popular.

Consumer analyst Jenny Catlin said: "These days people are much more aware of their health and often want to try to prevent illnesses before they start, rather than taking medicine once the illness has kicked in.

"They also realise that spotting symptoms early on can really improve the chances of remaining healthy.

"Additionally, long waiting lists mean it is not always easy or convenient to get to the doctor, which means more people are choosing to go it alone."

But spokeswoman for Boots, Colette Phillips, warned the tests were not intended to replace doctors. She said: "We would always stress that these kits are just the first step and should be the trigger to see a GP rather than being used solely as a self-diagnostic kit."

Those most likely to own three or more self-diagnostic products were aged 25 between and 34.

Researchers believe this is because older people are more at risk of chronic conditions and would rather seek the reassurance of a doctor or health professional.

Mum-of-two Angela Gallagher, 39, of Fenham, tried out the Intestinal Bleeding and Bowel Disorders Boot's Health Check No2, priced pounds 10, out of curiosity.

This test involves collecting a stool sample which you mix with a chemical in a tiny bottle. You add drops of the solution in a test well and wait for the blue lines to appear in the result window - one is negative, two are positive. Two tests are included to take a positive test sample to the doctor.

Angela's test was negative.

She said: "The instructions were clear and straight forward but collecting a stool sample was not the nicest thing in the world to do.

"But at least you can do it in the privacy of your own home. I don't know how a doctor tests for bowel disorders but I would imagine this would be pretty embarrassing too.

"I thought it would involve a blood or urine sample and was a bit disgusted, but I suppose it is a worthwhile thing to do."

Dr Lee Hetherington, who is based in Newburn, said: "These tests are generally easy to use but I wonder why people want to do them themselves when they can go to a GP and get them done for free by a skilled person who can interpret the results properly."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 3, 2003
Words:520
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