Call to target health checks at high-risk groups

The NHS Health Check programme should be scrapped and replaced with a scheme to target high-risk patients, argue public health experts.

NHS Health Check was aimed at preventing vascular diseases (Photograph: SPL)
NHS Health Check was aimed at preventing vascular diseases (Photograph: SPL)

Professor Nick Bosanquet of Imperial College London branded the scheme 'an example of opportunistic screening at its worst'.

Speaking at the Westminster Health Forum conference on health inequalities in London last month, Professor Bosanquet said: 'We need targeted programmes rather than the general NHS Health Check, which has no evidence base.'

His view was backed by RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada, who was also critical. 'When GPs get their teeth into commissioning they can put money where it is required,' she said.

The NHS Health Check scheme, announced in 2008 by former health secretary Alan Johnson, aimed to prevent cases of vascular disease.

The plan required PCTs to screen all adults aged 40 to 74 for diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular disease and stroke risk, regardless of their risk profile. Health checks were rolled out in April 2009, and full implementation is expected by 2012/13.

However, a GP investigation last year (GP, 12 February 2010) found more than a third of PCTs had yet to carry out any of the checks. Among those who had begun the checks, half had screened just one in 20 eligible patients.

When health checks were announced, they immediately came under fire from the GPC, who labelled the plans 'inconsistent' and 'populist'.

Speaking at the conference, Professor Bosanquet suggested future government-led initiatives in the NHS should be reviewed by NICE. He said: 'Everyone else's initiatives must be reviewed by NICE - why not health ministers'? That in itself would reduce the number of initiatives conceived.'

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