The NHS has been in the news recently due to the first strike in a generation by doctors in the service.  The issues arose over plans to improve seven day services within the NHS, with concerns over how the plans will be staffed and paid for.

It stands to reason therefore that prevention in this instance could be hugely valuable.  A study by researchers at Queen Mary’s University has evaluated the NHS Health Check service to determine how effective it has been at identifying people at risk of developing cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks or strokes.

The study reveals that in the first five years of operation, the service has prevented approximately 2,500 cases from requiring treatment, whilst also significantly helping to boost the diagnosis of commonly linked conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The NHS Health Check

The NHS Health Check is believed to be the first system in the world that is designed to prevent heart attacks and strokes by offering a free health check to every adult aged between 40-74 years of age.  The review checks for a number of behavioural factors, such as obesity and over-drinking that contribute to heart attacks or strokes, before then offering lifestyle advice to rectify any issues identified.

The researchers worked with 655 GP practices to examine over 1.7 million eligible people.  In addition to the 2,500 people were avoided a major incident, the health check also identified various other health issues, including:

  • one new case of diabetes out of every 110 appointments
  • a new case of hypertension in every 27 appointments
  • a new case of chronic kidney disease in every 265 appointments
  • over 14% of appointments resulting in lifestyle interventions for obesity, smoking and alcohol issues

The authors believe that the programme has significant potential for improvement and that it should be rolled out further to fully achieve its potential.  The latest data suggests that around 48% of those who are eligble to attend a review do so, but further efforts are required to increase this further. especially in those aged between 40 and 60.

Study lead Dr John Robson from Queen Mary University of London said:

“The NHS Health Check programme is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and our study demonstrates a modest but successful start. We estimate that the programme could help identify 44,000 new cases of hypertension, 10,000 new cases of diabetes and 4,500 new cases of kidney disease in England every year. In the first five years of the programme, an estimated 2,500 people were also prevented from having a stroke or heart attack through treatments following their NHS Health Check.

“Uptake of the programme during the study period showed year-on-year improvement, but much still needs to be done as there is considerable scope for even better coverage.”