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Rethink universal approach to NHS Health Checks, urges Public Health England adviser

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Professor Nick Wareham

 A leading Public Health England advisor has called for a major rethink of the universal NHS Health Checks programme - claiming that a more targeted approach may be more cost-effective.

Professor Nick Wareham - director of the MRC epidemiology unit - told Pulse the current programme – which involves inviting everyone aged 40–75 for screening of cardiovascular and other risk factors – may not the best use of resources.

Instead, he urged public health leaders to target those at high-risk individuals as the evidence suggested this was likely be cost-effective.

Public Health England recently announced a commitment to rolling the scheme out further and finding ways to improve its implementation.

But the programme has been beset by problems – most recently evaluations showing uptake and coverage is falling well behind projected rates– and another casting doubt on the suitability of the screen for picking up diabetes.

For the full exclusive Pulse story click here.

Readers' comments (1)

  • It's so disappointing to see PHE going down this route.

    Of course NHS Heatlh Checks are screening - there's no such thing as "pre-screening". And of course they do harm - they divert resources from other, possibly more useful interventions.

    The criteria for whether a screening programme should be introduced were well described by Wilson and Jungner in 1968 (and have been developed since). It seems extremely unlikely to me that the NHS HEalth Checks programme meet these criteria.

    I would love to see PHE as a source of robust, scientifically sound advice. Since NHS Health Checks were a bright idea from a minister who wanted to get re-elected - the idea plays very well with the middle-class chattering classes who haven't had the down-sides of screening explained to them - PHE instead seems to have taken on the role of government propagandists.

    Further reading available via http://www.ganfyd.org/index.php?title=Screening

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