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Health checks are ‘unlikely to be beneficial’

General health checks by GPs are of little use and should be scrapped, says a new review of evidence.

The analysis of 14 randomised trials of more than 150,000 adults found there was also no effect on the risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer for those who took part in general health checks.

The results showed no impact on the risk of illness but that diagnoses could increase by as much as 20%.

The study raises awkward questions about the evidence base for the NHS Health Check scheme, that the Government plans to expand.

Although a couple of the studies looked at found that people ‘felt healthier’, the researchers pointed out that this is not a reliable result.

Health checks made no significant difference to the number of admissions to hospital, disability, worry, the number of referrals to specialists, additional visits to the physician, or absence from work, according to the available research.

The Danish researchers said even though most of the trials were old and treatments and risk factors used in the trials were out of date, general health checks were ‘unlikely to be beneficial’.

They concluded: ‘Our results do not support the use of general health checks aimed at a general population.

‘One reason for the apparent lack of effect may be that primary care physicians already identify and intervene when they suspect a patient to be at high risk of developing disease when they see them for other reasons,’ the researchers said.

They added that those most at risk of disease may be least likely to attend health checks.

Source: Cochrane Collaboration, online 17 October



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