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NHS Health Checks uptake remains well below target

The number of NHS Health Checks conducted in the last 12 months has increased by almost 10%, but uptake remains below 50% according to new NHS England figures, but says more work must be done with clinicians to ensure follow ups.

In a letter to CCGs from NHS England national medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, welcomed the 19% increase in the numbers of NHS Health Checks offered.

But the current uptake is stuck at 48%, well below Public Health England’s target of 66% of patients taking up the offer of a health check.

It comes after Pulse revealed that public health leaders are introducing NICE’s lower threshold for prescribing statins for primary prevention into the health checks programme.

GP leaders have warned that there are hidden workload costs for GPs, and practices are likely to be deterred unless the work is adequately resourced.

Sir Bruce told commissioners its success depends on ‘local partners providing an appropriate response to local clinical need’.

The letter states: ‘I would strongly encourage you to work in partnership with local authorities to improve the clinical follow up to the NHS Health Check and ensure that we are taking full advantage of the opportunity that the programme presents for the NHS and the wider health and care system.’

But Dr John Ashcroft, an executive officer at Derbyshire LMC, told Pulse that Public Health England’s decision to adopt the 10% ten-year risk threshold for prescribing statins was having a particularly revealing impact on NHS Health Checks.

Dr Ashcroft said: ‘It’s this other hidden side, they’re saying “it’s wonderful doing health checks” but they’re not recognising the other work that’s being generated by it. Particularly this change to statins from 20% to 10%, it’s generated a lot, lot more work.’

He added: ‘The downside is that a lot of places doctors won’t pick up this work, when people realise the extra work being generated by the health checks, they’ll says “let’s not do it in the first place”, because the hidden cost is huge.’

In July, Pulse reported research that showed the Health Checks scheme could be costing twice as much as oportunistic testing.

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