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NHS Health Check could go digital to take pressure off GPs

NHS Health Check could go digital to take pressure off GPs

The Government is piloting a digital version of the NHS Health Check, as a way of taking pressure off GP services.

Instead of a face-to-face visit, the Cornwall-based pilot offers patients a digital check involving an online questionnaire, a kit to take a blood sample at home and a blood pressure check at the pharmacy or in the GP waiting room.

The trial is part of plans to digitise health checks for 40-to-74-year olds, the Government said, which would free up time for clinicians.

It builds on approaches to healthcare that developed during Covid when people got used to doing tests at home and getting their results online.

More than 2,000 people across three GP surgeries will be invited to take part in the study with anyone with results suggesting an underlying health condition to be followed up by the practice.

Minister for public health Neil O’Brien said the trial would help understand what a new digital NHS Health Check could look like in the years to come.

‘The health check is crucial in preventing and identifying potentially life-threatening conditions, and this digital version will do just that while making patients’ lives easier and reducing pressure on frontline services.’

Dr Andy Sant, managing director of NHS Cornwall’s North and East Integrated Care Area, said: ‘Much has been achieved in our county around digital inclusion, and the preventative value of health checks is already proven.

‘So, we are delighted that patients in Cornwall are being given the first opportunity to access a digital version through this innovative trial. Amid such sustained pressure upon general practice, this is a welcome and logical progression.’

RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said health checks had an important role in prevention and early diagnosis, but they must be based on evidence that they improve health outcomes for our patients.

‘Offering patients the opportunity to carry out health checks, or some aspects of health checks, for themselves at home has merit – some sexual health services already offer users at-home self-testing options, for example, and some patients already have equipment at home such as blood pressure monitors -– so is worth exploring.’

But she added: ‘We expect to see a robust evaluation of this initiative, before further decisions to roll it out more widely are made.

‘Specifically, this needs to look at how digital health checks would link up with GP patient records, and how “red flag” symptoms or recommendations for lifestyle change picked up by the health checks are managed.

‘It also needs to address concerns around the potential for causing unnecessary worry for patients who may not know how to interpret their findings, practice staffing implications regarding the running, interpretation and explanation of tests, and additions to GP workload.’ 

Researchers at the University of Oxford recently called for a review of NHS health checks after wide variation in how the service is offered and what happens to patients afterwards.

The Government’s ‘levelling up’ White Paper said it would be looking into the ‘future’ of the NHS Health Check scheme in February this year.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Darren Tymens 6 December, 2022 10:49 am

Healthcare designed by 24 year old Arts graduates, for other 24 year old Arts graduates.

Turn out The Lights 6 December, 2022 11:17 am

And when they find an issue who will it have to be cleaned up by!

David Church 6 December, 2022 11:19 am

We need to get our proirities right first.
Why is NHSE trying to mobilise people into mixing and contact at all, when they should be isolating them to prevent avoidable death and disability from Covid/long-covid?
The risks of Covid are currently very very much higher than the risks from diabetes and hypertension, and also very much easier to reduce by appropriate action – people do not like sticking to diets, exercise, and diuretics for life, any more than they will do being disabled for life by covid (although life will be shorter if they keep catching covid!!)

Patrufini Duffy 6 December, 2022 4:09 pm

Yes Darren. The nice leafy shores of Cornwall.

Beaker . 6 December, 2022 4:10 pm

So, one of the few services that is funded at a level that allows for profit to be made , and they take it away.
It is not taking the pressure off, it is taking revenue away

Andrew Jackson 6 December, 2022 5:35 pm

Screening for CVD risk factors of course has it’s merits but the NNT to prevent an important event is very high meaning we are losing vast swathes of appointment capacity meaning people with actual symptoms can’t get to see us.
We probably can’t do much about the numbers of sick people wanting to see us but we can stop using resources and appointments on preventative medicine with high NNTs till we have a workforce capacity capable of delivering both roles. It is a difficult choice but why are we still getting swathes of new preventative work being delivered into primary care either through initiatives like this, BP checks by vaccination centres and the PCN DES.
We need to consolidate till we have an expanded workforce.

Patrufini Duffy 6 December, 2022 6:15 pm

Do you remember under Kanani and Waller et Al. there was a cutting GP burecracy hit team. Nowhere to be seen. Launching, blasting – nothing. All those wines and canapes, and then they jumped ship. Zero legacy. Embarrassing.