Free health checks could save lives, Jeremy Hunt says

Blood pressure gauge Public health officials say the checks could prevent heart attacks and diabetes

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Hundreds of lives could be saved in England with better provision and take-up of free health checks, the health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt was highlighting the NHS Health Check programme, which is led by Public Health England (PHE).

PHE said checking the blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and lifestyle of people aged 40 to 74 could cut the rates of diabetes and heart attacks.

Health charities welcomed the move to boost the number of checks.

The aim of the health check programme is that everyone in England between the age of 40 and 74 who has not already been diagnosed with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease or certain types of dementia, or with certain risk factors, is invited for a face-to-face check once every five years.

The check is usually offered in GP surgeries and local pharmacies but may also be offered elsewhere. Results are given by a "healthcare professional" such as a GP, practice nurse or pharmacist.

Before local authorities took over responsibility from Primary Care Trusts for commissioning the checks in April, there was considerable variation in how widely they were offered.

'Life-saving opportunity'

PHE has launched a 10-point plan to help councils provide them to 20% of their eligible local population each year - thereby allowing them to cover all those within the age range over a five-year period.

Start Quote

Thinking about our health early is vital to living a long and prosperous life”

End Quote Jeremy Hunt Health Secretary

And it will soon launch a website where it will be possible to show how many health check offers are being made by each local authority.

Mr Hunt said: "I'd like to see all 40 to 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."

The PHE said the checks could prevent 1,600 heart attacks and 4,000 cases of diabetes a year.

The director of health and wellbeing for PHE, Professor Kevin Fenton, said: "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."

The chief executive of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young, said: "We are delighted Public Health England is taking the NHS Health Check programme seriously.

"These conditions can have a devastating effect on people's lives and the basic fact is that the more people who have an NHS Health Check, the more lives can be saved."

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said the health check programme had "the potential to reduce mortality, save money and improve the health of our nation by spotting risk factors before health conditions develop".

In Scotland, GP practices which are part of the Keep Well programme invite patients aged 40 to 64 for health checks.

NHS Wales is in the process of setting up self-assessment health checks for over 50s, in which people will fill in questionnaires and receive "tailored" health advice.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Bottom line is people have to have the motivation to improve thier health. People know about the dangers of smoking, Excess Alcohol, Poor Diet low in nutrients & fibre, But they still can't change. Alot of bad habits come from behaviour learnt from parents. People also use smoking, Alcohol & food as comfort fixes to escape from our ever target driven, materilistic lifestyles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Whatever your politics the NHS presents a problem. Like any organisation it's a mix of brilliant, average & poor. Witness the recent scandals. Moreover it consumes 8% of GDP and employs 1.7m people. The largest employer in the UK/Europe and 5th in the world. Why does it need so many more people than the German & French health services which are judged superior? As our industry something is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    We should all have regular comprehensive health checks on the NHS - they are said to save lives and reduce NHS expenditure.

    So why is it only similar private checks are available?

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    You can be checked regularly and still have a serious illness.
    You can take medication to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.The long term effects of doing so are yet to be established.
    Life is not risk free. The one thing that is certain is you will die. It's up to you how far you think it is worth delaying the inevitable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    My advice to anyone who has not had this offer -

    insist on it at your doctors surgery.

    Not only are the items mentioned checked for but also liver, kidney and other blood disorders, all of which you won't be aware of until told by the tests, or if you never bother to get the tests, then life could be short.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    They could also save the NHS a great deal of money.Self inflicted poor health - mainly obesity - is a huge problem in this country. However, patients must listen to medical advice for any checks to be useful. As to longevity people are living longer but still suffering all the problems of old age. For many a longer life ends in continual misery rather than hoped for happiness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    It's no use the Govt. issuing press releases to the BBC News about this so they can 'highlight' the matter.

    They need to put adverts on ITV in the middle of Pleb Factor.

    That's the only way they'll reach the people they need to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    67. dodger
    Why not start a Wickiepatients website, then we could all diagnose each other and leave the doctors to what they do best, whatever that is.

    Already done, it's called NHS direct. You could also use some of the USA ones, but guess what the answer is the same -

    Make an appointment with your GP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Prevention is better (and a lot cheaper for the NHS) than cure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.


    The failure of a doctor not detecting signs of an intestinal cancer has nothing to do with the NHS. One of my cousins died of stomach cancer having been told by her GP for months that her abdominal pains were caused by anxiety. This was in Canada.

    The quality of medical treatment comes down to the competence of the doctor. Many are very good, some are quite dreadful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    If the Government is promoting it then I suspect that one of their friends stands to make a vast sum of money from it without any measurable deliverables.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Checks are done at my surgery by the nurse you're lucky to see a doctor. I get the impression they're just going through the motions to get money from the government/tick the box that the check has been performed. If patients were able to always see the doctor they wanted the doctor would be able to pick up on illness before it got to far.Blood pressure should be checked by the doctor every visit

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    I thought that the complaint was that we are all living too long, and too many old people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I'm not sure about this quest for ever-lengthening our lives. A long life is great provided you don't have to struggle through failing hips, enlarged prostates and the irritation of working into your 70s! My grandmother lived to 98, the last 10 of which she was in a home bedridden. There was no dignity or benefit to her in a long life. I have NO intention of living the long life she enjoyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    The NHS is clearly not fit for purpose - we've had it for 60 years and the nation's health is getting worse and worse. If I want health advice I certainly wouldn't visit a GP. If I wanted drugs with "side-effects", that's a different matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    This from a government that has just refused to do anything about cheap booze or do more to stop people starting smoking. As usual, theyre a bunch of hypocrits

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    I went to my doctor a few months ago to request a cholesterol test and a general check-up (I'm 53), and all I got was a rather reluctant check of my blood pressure.She said they only do other tests "if you're worried" or "if you have symptoms". So that would be having a heart attack or getting diabetes, would it? Very shortsighted in my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    As community staffing levels are quite low and getting lower due to ageing population/demand who will be undertaking the new screening programme. It takes me up to two weeks currently to see my GP when I have physical symptoms never mind a health check.. Action will require staff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    How competent is your GP?

    I went to one of these screenings. I have an underlying health problem which is in my medical records that leaves me in pain from time to time. In those periods I can have increased blood pressure.

    Result of screening: aggressive over-prescription of drugs to reduce blood pressure. This made me very ill indeed.

    Only go to the doctor when there is no alternative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I am happy that these checks are offered for those who want them BUT I am fed up of popping into my local pharmacy to buy hair spray and having someone pounce on me and offer me this that or the other check!! Even our supermarket now gives out over the tannoy that diabetes checks are available in store. We are creating a nation full of health anxieties just to profit big companies.


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