'NHS health check' programme

The NHS Health Check (NHS HC) programme started in April 2009.

Prime Minister Tony Blair first announced the programme in January 2008, outlining that everyone would eventually have access to a health check-up. The Prime Minister highlighted a need to offer men over the age of 65 ultrasound tests to detect early abdominal aortic aneurysm and to introduce a series of tests to identify vulnerability to heart and circulation problems.

The NHS HC programme was introduced as a preventative measure to assess the risks to people from developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes, with its central aim being the early detection of CVD risk. The Prime Minister explained, 'increasing numbers of people suffer from what are often called ‘lifestyle diseases’ - with smoking and drinking, but most of all obesity, increasingly the main threats to the health of ourselves and our children'.

The checks would allow for the right support and advice to be targeted at individuals at risk, who would then be empowered to improve their health and wellbeing.

The programme required Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to offer eligible individuals aged 40–74-years-old a health check every 5 years. The responsibility for delivery was later transferred to local authorities in 2013, but with involvement from the NHS.

Reception

The programme was criticised due to its implementation without a supporting evidence base. Some have also criticised its focus on the 'worried well' and on behaviours, rather than taxation and sector-wide approaches. Critics have highlighted its limited potential impact 'against a backdrop of negative economic circumstances and social and market forces which help to perpetuate health inequalities'.

Later developments

The NHS Health Check programme became the responsibility of local authorities from 1 April 2013.

Source(s)

Blair T.
Speech on the National Health Service.
Speech presented at Kings College London and the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing.
2008 Jan 7; London.

Public Health England.
NHS health check; our approach to the evidence.
Public Health England; 2013.

Department of Health.
NHS health check.
Department of Health; 2010.

McCartney M.
Where’s the evidence for NHS health checks?
BMJ. 2013; 347: f5834.