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GPs go forth

NHS Health Checks set to miss cost-effectiveness target with just 40% uptake

Exclusive Only two in five eligible patients have attended their NHS Health Check in the past five years, meaning the programme will significantly miss its cost-effectiveness target.

Although 86% of eligible people were offered to attend the screening in the last five-year cycle, less than half (48.5%) of those patients actually attended, according to a Pulse analysis of NHS Health Check data available to date.

This left only 41.9% of the desired population who actually had their check since April 2013 - well below a 70-75% cost-effectiveness target - prompting public health experts to question whether the scheme should be scrapped.

Under the scheme, first introduced in 2009 and relaunched in 2013, GPs bring in patients aged between 40 and 74 for a check up every five years.

The aim is to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes and dementia, but according to economic modelling by the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England, it would only be cost effective if it reached between 70% and 75% of the population targeted.

Head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London Professor Azeem Majeed, who carried out a DHSC-commissioned evaluation of the scheme, told Pulse: ‘The performance of the NHS Health Check programme has been disappointing and it is concerning to see the recent decline in attendance rates.

'The programme either needs to be properly resourced and planned, or we need to consider whether the programme should be ended and we look at other ways of delivering cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention.’

It comes after PHE said it would review new research in 2016, which revealed that out of nearly 5,000 people attending a health check, only one avoided a cardiovascular event.

The DHSC-funded study highlighted that ‘poor’ planning and ‘inadequate’ engagement with healthcare professionals had led to the scheme falling ‘well short’ of targets.

Associate Professor Jamie Waterall, PHE national Lead for the NHS Health Check programme, said: 'Over 6.4m people have received an NHS Health Check over the past five years, making it one of the largest non-communicable disease prevention programmes of its type internationally.

'A recent evidence synthesis completed by Cambridge University shows the programme is reaching deprived communities and resulting in more people receiving evidenced based risk reduction interventions. Given that local areas pay per health check, this is still likely to be cost-effective but we are working with local teams to increase the number of people accessing this service.'

A PHE spokesperson told Pulse the final figures for the five-year cycle are due to be published in June.

Note: This article was updated with a PHE comment at 10.15am on 26 March. PHE had initially declined to comment.

Five-year uptake of NHS Health Check screening

Uptake among patients called for screening:

2013/14 – 49%

2014/15 – 48.8%

2015/16 – 47.9%

2016/17 – 49.9%

2017/18 (to Q3) – 46.4%

Source: NHS Health Check

Readers' comments (5)

  • Took Early Retirement

    As predicted by c 90% of GPs for some years.

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  • Dear All,
    And the research from the last 3 years will confirm that of the 40% who did turn up they will have been the least likely to need intervention, the worried well attend, the can't be boverd simply can't be bovrd. the whole scheme is a farce and should be scrapped and the money out into the global sum.
    Paul C

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  • Dear All,
    Sorry that should be 30 (thirty) not 3 years.
    paul C

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  • This has NEVER been a cost effective use of limited funding.Just now everyone is getting wise to this politically introduce program and it will slowly fade away.

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  • This was Gordon Browns baby, and in some ways a laudable idea; he wantedto see the NHS actually being a "Health Service" rather than an illness service and patients getting something that he saw patients with private cover getting.
    However this led to the NHS rolling out a on size fits all scheme and ignored the NICE CG67, lipid modification pathway that had shown with the work from Tom Marshall that you could take the data base that was by then being generated from QoF and target the risk assessment to those most likely to benefit.
    OK Gordon Brown was the priminister...
    What is really bizarre is that in the time of auserity, 10years later, 2 governments, with a Tory Health Minister who makes big statements about using "big data", this gold plated programme continues to be rolled out much the same.

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