BBC One's Long Live Britain reveals results of Britain’s biggest combined health screening

We hope these two programmes will help BBC One audiences to have a greater understanding of the warning signs. And by reaching viewers at home on their sofas, we also hope to reach some of those who are reluctant to visit their GP’s surgery."Kim Shillinglaw, BBC Commissioner for Science and Natural History
Date: 20.07.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.01
Category: BBC One; Factual
A new BBC One health programme, Long Live Britain (Monday 22 July), has revealed the findings of its mass health screening, which found that of the 384 adults screened, 79% were at increased risk of developing at least one of Britain’s major preventable conditions – Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and alcohol-related liver disease.

On Saturday 25 May 2013, Maverick Television, on behalf of the BBC, organised a major health screening in Manchester, with the help of NHS North of England, Diabetes UK, HEART UK – The Cholesterol Charity and the British Liver Trust. The screening took place at the Magic Weekend Rugby League event at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, with a team of GPs and 50 volunteer NHS nurses assessing members of the public for their risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and alcohol-related liver disease, using a specially designed health questionnaire and further on and off-site medical tests.

Almost 400 rugby spectators and members of the Manchester public attended the event, which was the UK’s largest combined health screening.

Of the 384 adults screened on the day, 79% were referred to their GP because they were at an increased risk of developing at least one of the conditions. Risk could be indicated by weight and waist size, ethnicity, lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise or family history.

Key findings were as follows:

  • 42% were referred to their GP because of their risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • 28% were referred to their GP because of their risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 47% were referred to their GP because of their risk of alcohol-related liver disease
  • 23% of participants over 50 showed an increased risk of developing premature heart disease in the next 10 years
  • 55% of those aged between 30 and 80 had a heart age that is older than their actual age
  • 37% of white Europeans showed a moderate or high risk of Type 2 diabetes, compared with 52% of south Asian and 73% of Afro-Caribbean participants
  • Only 26% of participants were a healthy weight and a third of those screened were classified as obese (based on their BMI)
  • 69% had a larger waistline which is a risk factor of Type 2 diabetes
  • 19% of participants said they rarely or never exercise
  • At least 17% drank over their recommended weekly allowance of alcohol

Number of years saved

The average number of years of life lost across the three conditions is 13.5. Based on this, if every person who attended the screening and was referred to their GP for being at an increased risk of one of the three conditions was prevented from ultimately developing these conditions, the project could potentially have saved the people of Manchester up to 4090.5 years of life.

A Snapshot of the UK

While those assessed were predominantly from the North of England, there was a roughly equal gender mix (46% female/54% male), a good spread of ages (from 18 to 83) and a variety of ethnic backgrounds representative of the area (78% white European compared with 22% other ethnic groups).

If the statistical patterns observed at the event were seen across the entire UK adult population, it could indicate that:

  • Up to 14 million adults in the UK could be at a high risk of developing at least one of these three conditions
  • In the next 10 years, we would expect 5.8 million adults to develop Type 2 diabetes
  • In the next 10 years we would expect 3.5 million adults to develop cardiovascular disease
  • At least 8 million adults drink over their recommended weekly alcohol intake and 4.3 million adults have harmful levels of drinking
  • 16 million adults are obese and 33 million are categorised to have a larger waist
  • 9 million adults rarely or never exercise
  • Despite the restricted sample base these statistical extrapolations all broadly reflect other independent surveys and analyses of the UK population. See footnotes 4-9 below for references

Kim Shillinglaw, BBC Commissioner for Science and Natural History, said: “There is evidence that some of these serious medical conditions are on the increase in the UK, yet people may be able to reduce their risk through lifestyle changes if they are aware of their risk factors. We hope these two programmes will help BBC One audiences to have a greater understanding of the warning signs. And by reaching viewers at home on their sofas, we also hope to reach some of those who are reluctant to visit their GP’s surgery. Watching Long Live Britain could literally save the lives of some of our viewers."

Barbara Young, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: “Knowing your own risk of Type 2 diabetes is the important first step to taking control of your health and making any changes you need to. People can check out their risk online or attend our risk assessment events to find out what their likelihood of getting the condition is. Having diabetes in the family, being older and being of a Black or South Asian background can all play a part in increasing your chances of developing the condition. But 80 per cent of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented with lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy balanced diet and being more physically active.

“The number of people with Type 2 diabetes is rising at an alarming rate so we all need to do what we can to identify people at risk of the condition and make sure that they are provided with the right support and guidance to reduce their risk and make healthier lifestyle choices. GPs, pharmacies, workplaces and even the media can all play a part in alerting people about their risk of this lifelong condition.”

Jules Payne, Chief Executive of HEART UK – The Cholesterol Charity, said: “Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of years of life lost in the UK. Heart disease causes around one in three deaths and contributes significantly to premature death and long term disability but there is a huge opportunity to reduce the number of people suffering from this condition. One way we can do this is by providing better detection and management of risk factors such as raised cholesterol, which affects six in every 10 adults, and is the biggest single modifiable risk factor for heart disease. Unlike other risk factors, many people are not aware they have high cholesterol and often do not understand the risk that it brings to their lives, there are no outward signs, and unless you are tested often the first indication could be a heart attack.”

Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said: "Liver disease is an ever increasing health problem in the UK. We are seeing increases in all of the three main causes of liver disease - alcohol related health problems, obesity and viral hepatitis - all of which could be preventable with changes in lifestyle. The BBC's Long Live Britain programme is a great opportunity to raise these issues with millions of viewers and highlight how better lifestyle choices could significantly reduce their chances of liver disease.

"The British Liver Trust is delighted to have been involved in this programme and applauds the BBC in choosing to highlight a range of health issues that at present significantly harm the health of the nation causing great hardships for many people and their families but also an enormous financial and resource burden on the NHS."

Hosted by Dr Phil Hammond, Julia Bradbury and Phil Tufnell, Long Live Britain will be broadcast in two shows on BBC One on Monday 22 July (9pm and 10.35pm). In addition to the public screening event, the programmes also follow celebrities Ricky Grover, Crissy Rock and Jodie Prenger as they also undertake the screening programme to assess their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and alcohol-related liver disease.

Notes to Editors

Long Live Britain was produced for BBC One by Maverick Television.

The Long Live Britain questionnaire is comprised of three different risk assessments: the QRISK®2 score, Diabetes UK risk score, and the Love Your Liver risk assessment developed by the British Liver Trust.

The QRISK®2 score evaluates the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). It estimates the risk of a person developing CVD over the next 10 years and has been specifically developed by doctors and academics for use in the UK using a database of over 10 million patients. The score assessed those at low risk (less than a 10% chance of developing CVD in the next 10 years), moderate risk (between a 10 and 20% chance) and high risk (over 20%).

The Diabetes Risk Score was developed in collaboration with University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. It aims to predict an individual’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years using seven questions which relate to age, gender, waist circumference, BMI, ethnic background, blood pressure and family history. It uses a points system to identify if a person is at low, increased, moderate, or high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Based on this score, appropriate advice is provided in the form of lifestyle changes or a GP referral.

The Love Your Liver assessment consists of two separate risk scores: the AUDIT score which assesses alcohol consumption, and the British Liver Trust assessment for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) is a simple ten-question test developed by the World Health Organization to determine if a person's alcohol consumption may be harmful. The test was designed to be used internationally, and was validated in a study using patients from six countries. A score of 5 or more indicates levels of increased or higher risk drinking. A score of 8 or more indicates a strong likelihood of hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption. The NAFLD score uses questions related to diet, exercise and BMI to assess the person’s risk of developing fatty liver disease.

The statistical results from the screening questionnaire and the projections for the rest of the UK were compiled by Dr Jennifer Rogers, a member of the Royal Statistical Society who works as a Research Fellow in the Medical Statistics Department in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, and was recently cited as one of the world's top universities for collaborative research.

The School's mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice.

1. Increased risk is defined as follows: Type 2 diabetes – falling in the moderate or high risk score categories, coronary heart disease – a QRISK2 score of over 10%, alcohol related liver disease – an increased risk (score greater than or equal to 5).

2. Based on classification of a larger waist by Diabetes UK being over 37 inches for white and black men, 35 inches for Asian men and 31.5 inches for women.

3. This average was calculated using the estimated average number of years of life lost associated with each of the three conditions: 4.5, 10 and 26 for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and alcoholic liver disease respectively. The figure 13.5 is the mean of these three statistics, calculated as (4.5+10+26)/3.

4. High risk is defined as follows: Type 2 diabetes – falling in high risk score category, coronary heart disease – a QRISK2 score of over 20%, alcohol related liver disease – having hazardous or harmful drinking levels.

5. As a comparison, an estimated 7 million people are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes (http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Documents/Reports/State-of-the-Nation-2012.pdf). In 2011, the Department of Health estimated that up to 10-20% of the population of England are potentially at some risk of developing some liver damage, which equates to up to 9.6 million people (http://www.rightcare.nhs.uk/index.php/atlas/liver-disease-nhs-atlas-of-variation-in-healthcare-for-people-with-liver-disease/) According to the Coronary Heart Disease Statistics Compendium (British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group and Department of Public Health, University of Oxford) coronary heart disease is the main cause of death in the UK, causing 1 in 5 deaths in men and 1 in 8 deaths in women. While there are an estimated 2.4 million people suffering from CHD mortality rates have fallen in recent years, though to be due to improved treatment and reduction in smoking.

6. As a comparison, according to Diabetes UK State of the Nation 2012 report, 5 million people will develop Type 2 diabetes by 2025 - http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Documents/Reports/State-of-the-Nation-2012.pdf

7. As a comparison, a report from the Office of National Statistics in 2007, reported that 37% drink more than their recommended limit - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7844449.stm. A possible reason for our lower figure is a general underestimation of alcohol intake by those screened.

8. As a comparison, a report by the National Audit Office from 2008 estimated that 10 million adults in England have hazardous levels of drinking - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3273552/More-than-10-million-drinking-at-hazardous-levels.html. A possible reason for our lower figure is a general underestimation of alcohol intake by those screened.

9. As a comparison, according to The NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre report, published in February 2012, 26% of the adult population is obese http://www.aso.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/03/2012-Statistics-on-Obesity-Physical-Activity-and-Diet-England.pdf.

10. According to our statistics, 19% of participants say they rarely or never exercise. As a comparison, according to a survey by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, 20% of those questioned said they exercised only once a month or less - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8120726.stm.

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