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NHS Health Checks to be reviewed under government prevention plans

The number of people being screened will be ‘maximised’, but programmes will be more ‘tailored’ under new proposals from the health secretary – including a review of NHs Health Checks. 

A green paper on preventing ill health from the Department of Health and Social Care states screening in the NHS will become ‘more personalised and stratified by risk’ in order to focus interventions where needed.

The NHS Health Check, a check up for adults aged between 40 and 74 commissioned by local councils, will be reviewed under the proposals. 

A new vaccination strategy will also be announced by spring 2020 to increase uptake and develop new vaccinations. 

The proposals have called for more focused screening in high-risk populations, for example lung cancer screening among smokers.

The paper also states there will be decreased screening among lower-risk groups, such as lengthening the screening intervals for women vaccinated against HPV.

The new proposals have said screening will be easier for patients to access, with better use of technology and faster implementation of programmes. 

Under new plans for NHS Health Checks, evidence for a specific ‘MOT’ when approaching retirement age will also be reviewed.  

The consultation paper, called Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, also announced the launch of a mental health prevention package campaign for Every Mind Matters in October 2019, with the goal of making 1 million adults better equipped to look after their mental health.

The paper said: ‘In the future, the support and advice we provide to people will become much more focused and tailored.

‘Our vision for future screening in the NHS is for uptake to be maximised, including by making screening easier for people to access, and tackling unjustified variations in take-up [and] existing national screening programmes to become more personalised and stratified by risk, so we focus interventions where they are most needed.’ 

It added: ‘We recognise that there are challenges in the existing screening arrangements, and that reform is needed to achieve our vision for the future. Recommendations from the review will help shape our plans for change, supported by a strategic review of IT required to enable our vision for future screening. NHSX will lead on this element of the screening strategy.

‘We also recognise that there remains variation in screening outcomes across the country, and by deprivation and ethnicity. As part of our response to Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommendations, we will set out our understanding of the variation in performance and a plan for reducing these inequalities. We are due to respond to these recommendations in July.’

The green paper also announced:

  • A Government commitment to eradicating smoking by 2030,
  • Ending the sale of energy drinks to children under 16,
  • And the exploration of a programme in 2020 to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing through social prescribing – primarily through connecting them to nature-based activities,
  • The launch of a vaccination strategy by spring 2020 to increase uptake and develop new vaccinations,
  • The publication of a national genomics healthcare strategy in autumn 2019 to set out how the UK can become a global leader in genomic healthcare.

BMA board of science chair, Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, said: ‘The green paper has been introduced at the same time as public health funding is being repeatedly cut. In order to truly prioritise prevention, the Government must reverse these cuts and invest in services, while ensuring the public health workforce are motivated, properly resourced and mobilised across the system.   

‘Ultimately the success of this strategy, lies in the hands of the next Government who have the responsibility of delivering it. It is concerning that this paper lands at a time of such political uncertainty so it is vital that the new prime minister not only commits to delivering on the positive steps outlined in this paper, but that they also go beyond this and commit to the much bolder action that is needed.’

David Buck, senior fellow at The King’s Fund said: ‘Government cuts to public health budgets are leading to reductions in services such as drug treatment, smoking cessation and sexual health services. 

‘It is essential that the new government moves quickly to shore up these vital services by finding the £1bn needed to restore budgets to where they need to be.’

The proposals follow research that found that some women may be able to go as much as 10 years between cervical screening appointments.



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