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Government Health Checks flagship scheme ‘should be scuttled’, says GP expert

The NHS Health Check scheme ‘should be scuttled’ as it is ‘unfit for purpose’, a GP academic has said in another attack on the Government’s high-profile vascular screening programme.

Writing in an editorial in the British Journal of General Practice., Professor David Mant, emeritus professor of general practice at the University of Oxford, said that the scheme was ‘inefficient at case finding, strays into primary prevention and lacks an adequate quality-assurance mechanism to ensure subsequent treatment is effective.’

Professor Mant added: ‘The NHS Preventive flagship merits scuttling because it’s unfit for purpose.’

He backed calls made in another article – from researchers including Professor Richard McManus, GP and professor of primary care at the University of Oxford – for the current programme to be replaced by a targeted screening strategy aimed at high-risk patients, using the electronic patient record.

A systematic review published in the same issue of the journal, by Dr Paula Koekkoek, at the University Medical Centre Utrecht, and colleagues, concluded that such a step-wise approach would be the best strategy for cardiovascular prevention in primary care – a view that has also been put forward by Government public health advisors.

The Department of Health has faced heavy criticism since launching the NHS Health Checks programme in 2009, including from academics and leading GPs who argue it is not evidence based.

Public Health England (PHE) was handed responsibility for the programme and relaunched it last year, despite ongoing calls for a rethink and official figures suggesting that uptake by commissioners remains patchy.

However, PHE chief of health and wellbeing, Professor Kevin Fenton, recently defended the programme to Pulse, insisting it was evidence-based and that the public health body was committed to ensuring it is rolled out fully by 2018.

Br J Gen Pr 2014; available online 29 September

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