The evidence underpinning the Government’s flagship NHS Health Checks programme is under review as Public Health England seeks to gain GPs’ buy-in and boost uptake of the programme.
In a report on progress and future plans with the programme, PHE insists there is a ‘clear case’ for implementing the five-yearly cardiovascular and diabetes risk assessments in people aged 40 to 74 years, but concedes ‘some leading public health professionals and clinical providers continue to have questions about the evidence base’.
PHE has pledged to set up a national advisory committee, as well as a national steering group, to review the evidence as the programme is rolled out and advise on local delivery.
The programme was first introduced in 2009 and, despite mixed feedback, the coalition Government has committed to rolling them out to all 15 million potentially eligible people in England over the next five years.
Up to now, uptake of the programme has been patchy and many GPs have voiced doubts about the its benefits, with some suggesting it could actually worsen the health inequalities it was supposed to tackle.
In a ‘10-point plan’ to support local authorities with implementing the health checks scheme, the report says: ‘PHE will work with system partners to facilitate future research and evaluation of the NHS Health Check programme at a national and local level. This will provide the implementation evidence required to ensure effective roll-out and improvement.’
It adds: ‘PHE is aware that local authorities are taking on programmes in varying stages of implementation and with widely varying performance. Reporting by PHE and take-up by local authorities will be cognisant of this being a five-year programme.’
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, told Pulse earlier this month GPs will be ‘at the centre’ of the drive to boost the take-up of health checks by 50%.
Professor Fenton said: ‘PHE will establish an expert clinical and scientific advisory panel to review and advise on the evidence base and we will work with partners to develop a research and analysis programme to support the delivery and evaluation of the programme at both local and national levels.’