NHS health checks to continue despite expert doubts

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cartoon-fat-cat-man-bald-big-vested-belly-jowls-pen-ink-drawing Public Health England will continue providing five-yearly health checks for all people aged 40–74 years, despite expert claims that these are of limited value.

The NHS health checks, introduced by the Labour government in 2010, have been criticised by leading GPs as diverting resources from those at higher risk.

As Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley also criticised the policy, saying the checks were “not entered into on the basis of research” and should be either scrapped or refocused on people with stronger risk factors.

The checks screen a total of 15 million people for diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke risk.

A recent review by the Cochrane Commission concluded: “General health checks in adults may not reduce morbidity or mortality from disease.”

However, PHE will not only continue the checks but will extend them to include dementia awareness and alcohol consumption.

A spokeswoman for PHE claimed the NHS health check programme to be “highly cost effective,” with an annual cost of £332m and an estimated annual benefit of £367m.

According to John Middleton, Vice President of the UK Faculty of Public Health, the checks should be selectively targeted: “Risk stratification and identification of people most at risk through practice lists may be a more cost effective approach.”

In Nottingham, Stoke and Sandwell, he added, such an approach is already being used to “identify unmet needs for treatment, particularly for hypertension and reducing cardiovascular risk.”