Call to action on health checks
More than 650 lives a year could be saved if simple NHS Health Checks were offered throughout the country and taken up, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a call to action for people to start thinking more seriously about their health.
A Public Health England (PHE) review has reiterated that checking 40-74-year-olds' blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and lifestyle could identify problems earlier and prevent 650 deaths, 1,600 heart attacks and 4,000 cases of diabetes a year.
Before local authorities took over responsibility for commissioning Health Checks in April, there was considerable variation in how widely they were offered. PHE, which leads the NHS Health Check programme, has now launched a ten-point plan to help councils roll them out to 20 per cent of their eligible local population a year –15 million people by 2018/19.
PHE will also soon launch a website where it will be possible to show how many Health Check offers are being made by each local authority. In the future it will also be possible to look up the details of your nearest NHS Health Check service. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
"Around 15 million people in England are eligible for a free NHS Health Check that could identify serious conditions early and add years to their life.
"I'd like to see all 40-74 year olds taking up this potentially life-saving opportunity. And I'd like to see the NHS and local authorities encouraging people in their area to get involved. We could save 650 lives a year if there was full take-up.
"We are an ageing population and thinking about our health early is vital to living a long and prosperous life.”
Director of Health and Wellbeing for Public Health England, Professor Kevin Fenton added:
"NHS Health Check programme offers a real opportunity to reduce avoidable deaths and disability, and tackle health inequalities in England.
"We must do more to increase uptake and referral to appropriate risk management services, particularly in those communities at greatest risk, to remove blocks in processes that get in the way and make sure the programme is of consistent high quality across the country.
"We will establish an expert clinical and scientific advisory panel to review and advise on the evidence base and we will work with partners to develop a research and analysis programme to support the delivery and evaluation of the programme at both local and national levels.”
Between 2010 and 2020 the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to rise by 27 per cent with those aged 85 and over rising by 44 per cent.
Already in England:
The NHS Health Check programme is for people aged 40-74 in England and is focussed on preventing conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. It is a key part of the Health Secretary's ambition to save 30,000 lives a year by 2020 following his call to action on avoiding premature mortality.
In June he also exposed the local variation in early death rates through ‘Longer Lives', a new Public Health England (PHE) website which allows local people to see easily how their areas perform on early deaths from the major four killers, like heart disease and cancer.
NHS Primary Care Trusts began offering NHS Health Checks in 2009 and good progress has been made. However, access has been patchy with some areas facing barriers and challenges to maximising the impact of the programme.