Patients dropping in for flu and top-up Covid vaccinations this autumn will be offered a health check at the same time, NHS England has announced.
Patients will be offered a range of tests including blood pressure, heart-rhythm and cholesterol checks as part of the plans, which NHS England said would save ‘thousands of lives’.
According to research carried out by NHS England in collaboration with the Oxford Academic Health Science Network, one patient may be prevented from suffering a stroke from every 5,000 people offered heart checks at vaccination centres.
Researchers estimate that 1,000 patients may be prevented from suffering a stroke every year if everyone over 65 was offered an annual rhythm check, NHS England said.
Speaking today at the NHS Confederation Conference, NHS England chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard set out plans to make ‘every contact count’ by introducing health checks at times when patients already have other appointments.
She told delegates: ‘The NHS is not just a sickness service but a health service which is why we want to make every contact count, using every opportunity to keep people well rather than just seeking to make them better.
‘We want to offer a fully integrated care system, where we can reach out to people in the communities they live in – not just diagnosing and treating conditions, but working in partnership with the public and intervening before advanced disease occurs, keeping people healthy and well.’
She added that the ‘hugely successful NHS vaccine programme’ has given the ‘opportunity to make every contact count by going out into peoples’ communities to beat coronavirus while also catching other killer conditions’.
‘The checks – like the jabs – will be available in convenient locations in local communities including village halls, churches, mosques and local sports centres and prevent people becoming seriously ill,’ she said.
NHS England said this comes as pharmacists have been offering on-the-spot heart checks to identify patients at risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke as part of an ongoing pilot, providing clinical and lifestyle advice and, where appropriate, referring patients on to treatment.
It also highlighted an example of Leeds dentists offering patients blood pressure and heart rhythm tests, while Croydon’s ‘Vaxi Taxi’ has been offering blood pressure checks, podiatry services and hepatitis C testing at community vaccination pop-ups for homeless people in London.
But the plans also come as the NHS Health Check programme, which targets everyone over 40, was paused in some areas during the pandemic, with promises of income protection for GP practices.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he is ‘absolutely clear’ that a Covid vaccination booster programme will run this autumn but deputy CMO Dr Jonathan Van-Tam has said it could be delayed if needed.
NHS England told Pulse that the final details of the health check programme are still being worked on, but said it will be up to local health providers to decide which particular checks they provide and to which groups.