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NHS Health Check programme ‘should be reviewed’

There is a ‘marked variation’ in uptake of the NHS Health Check programme, according to researchers who have called for a review of the cost-effectiveness of the programme.

The research team examined the impact of a local financial incentive scheme on uptake and statin prescribing in the first two years of the programme in GP practices in the London districts of Hammersmith and Fulham.

The programme was launched in 2009 to improve prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Pulse revealed in 2011 that the Government’s ambitious plans for its vascular screening programme were being undermined by funding cuts and ‘considerably lower than expected’ uptake among high-risk patients.

The study found that uptake was 32.7% in year one and 20% in year two, and patients in the 65 to 74 year-old age bracket had higher uptakes that those aged 40 to 54 years. The percentage of confirmed high risk patients prescribed a statin was 17.7% before, and 52.9% after the programme.

Across practices, there was a ‘marked variation’ in uptake, exception reporting and statin prescribing, the researchers concluded.

Lead researcher Macide Artac, a student at Imperial College London, said: ‘Uptake of the Health Check was low in the first year in patients with estimated high risk, despite financial incentives to general practices, although this matched the national required rate in the second year.

‘Further evaluations for cost and clinical effectiveness of the programme are needed to clarify whether this spending is appropriate, and to assess the impact of financial incentive on programme performance.’

 The research was published this month in Family Practice.