A leader in NHS England has confirmed that take-up of health checks were weak, in light of the first study on the scheme, published yesterday.
“I’m sure all of you will know that the health checks are available to the vast majority of people,” Peter Walsh, deputy director of the Strategy Group at NHS England told the audience at a King’s Fund event yesterday in London.
“Take-up of that has not been particularly strong, to put it mildly,” he added.
This comes after a four-year study (from 2009-2013) looking at 655 general practices across England concluded “NHS Health Check coverage was lower than expected but showed year-on-year improvement.”
However, nearly 8,000 new cases of hypertension were identified at the health check or in the following 12 months (one case per 27 NHS Health Checks). Moreover, nearly 2,000 new cases of diabetes and 800 new cases of Chronic Kidney Disease were found.
Yet NHS England estimated that the programme could prevent more than 4,000 new cases of diabetes each year, along with 600 heart attacks and strokes, and at least 650 premature deaths. The estimated cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) was approximately £3,000.
The research, published in BMJ Open, showed that attendance was relatively higher among older people (aged 60-74), of whom 20% of those eligible attended and 9.0% at age 40–59 years.
Guidance from NHS England stated “local authorities can commission the risk assessment from any provider of their choice but must work closely with their CCGs to ensure that there is a joined-up approach to the risk assessment and clinical follow-up and management.” CCGs are now able to access local geographical data to support their commissioning from the updated NHS Ready Reckoner Tool.
CCGs must work collaboratively with local authorities “to ensure that this programme is designed and delivered to meet the needs of those at greatest risk within their communities.”
NHS England is now trying “to test to see whether making [health checks] available in the workplace makes it easier for [NHS staff] to have their check,” Walsh added, and whether this “makes it easier for them to access the support and help they might need as a result of that health check.”
This part of a wider scheme to improve NHS staff wellbeing, announced by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, in September, in hope that it would cut the £2.4 billion annual cost of sickness among the 1.3 million NHS staff who care for patients.