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NHS website to give patients traffic-light health ratings

Patients are to be given a ‘traffic light' rating of their health risk through a new online screening programme to be launched by the Department of Health.

Visitors to the NHS Life Check site will be encouraged to visit their GP if rated in the ‘red' category for certain aspects of lifestyle and ill health.

But the new online system – which will ask about smoking, exercise, diet, alcohol use and stress – has attracted criticism for being simplistic and failing to target those most in need.

The site assesses areas such as cardiovascular risk, mental health and risk of sexual illness, flagging up potential problems with an amber or red light or giving a green ‘OK' rating.

The site, to be launched early next year, may advise those at high risk to consult their GP or special health trainers to help them modify their lifestyle.

Dr David French, a researcher on health behaviour at Coventry University and an advisor to the Department of Health, emphasised the site aimed to ‘motivate people to change their own behaviour' and not to increase GP workload. ‘The DH would get it in the neck, if it did that,' he said.

Dr Robert West, professor of health psychology at UCL and a fellow DH adviser, admitted the scheme was ‘crude' but said it was ‘potentially motivational'.

But Dr John Ashcroft, a GP in Derbyshire and member of the Derbyshire CHD committee, said it was ‘not evidence-based'. ‘Those coming to the site are likely to be motivated already, so it doesn't get to the people we really want to reach.'

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