Three charities, including Diabetes UK, have today welcomed a move to improve the number and quality of checks being carried out by doctors to identify people at high risk of lifelong health conditions.
The NHS Health Check Implementation Review and Action Plan was released by Public Health England to assess the progress of the scheme, which tests patients between 40 and 74 years old for their risk of various health conditions.
"Clinically effective and good value"
It found that the programme is clinically effective and good value for money and confirms a series of actions for Public Health England to ensure it is delivered in the best possible way for patients and for the NHS.
For the first time, Diabetes UK, the British Liver Trust and HEART UK, the cholesterol charity, are joining forces to publicly back the programme and support the steps outlined in today’s plan to improve its uptake.
A person’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, liver disease and heart disease can all be identified through the programme, and all three charities recognise the benefit of the scheme in preventing these conditions.
Improving the health of the nation
Andrew Langford, Chief Executive at the British Liver Trust, said, "The NHS Health Check programme has the potential to reduce mortality, save money and improve the health of our nation by spotting risk factors before health conditions develop. For those people who already have a health condition, this can be found and treated early to prevent further complications.
Common risk factors
"There are many common risk factors for these three conditions, such as being overweight or having high blood pressure, and these are tested in the programme. So we are pleased to be joining other charities in welcoming Public Health England’s move to make this Health Check more widely available."
The charities had previously raised concerns about the inconsistent implementation of the Check, as in some areas hardly anyone was being offered one. This review acknowledges that to make sure more people have these important tests there is a "need to improve both awareness of the NHS Health Check programme and engagement of those invited so they are willing to take up the offer."
"A unique opportunity"
Barbara Young, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said, "The NHS Health Check is a unique opportunity to prevent and identify serious health conditions, so we have been disappointed in the past that too few people were getting the opportunity to be risk assessed and signposted to interventions or treatment in this way.
"This review outlines the potential of the programme, to prevent 4,000 people from developing Type 2 diabetes each year, and highlights some important steps to make sure that these results are achieved.
"We are delighted that Public Health England is taking the NHS Health Check programme seriously, and we are particularly pleased to see it is committing to a target of 75 per cent uptake of the programme per year. 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 that can be saved."
Preventing health conditions
The action plan also outlines Public Health England’s commitment to focusing on behaviour change and preventative methods. It plans to gather and share good practice and to assess the competency of health check providers.
Jules Payne, Chief Executive at HEART UK said, "To see the NHS focusing its efforts on preventing health conditions, instead of solely treating them, is extremely positive. The Check makes contact with patients at just the right time – when there is still an opportunity to change lifestyle behaviours such as eating or drinking habits and levels of physical activity which could then mean that they avoid developing serious health conditions such as coronary heart disease.
"We are looking forward to seeing the roll-out of this programme and will continue to work with Public Health England to explore how the action plan can be delivered in practice because we are committed to helping prevent early deaths attributed to heart disease."
Long Live Britain
A BBC One programme, Long Live Britain, will be aired tomorrow night (Monday) at 9pm, looking at the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes, liver disease and heart disease, and exploring ways of preventing the conditions through lifestyle choices.