Fewer than one in ten eligible adults had an NHS Health Check over the past year, figures published by the NHS have revealed.
In 2018/2019, 17.6% of adults aged 40–74 years (2,741,294 people) were offered the health check, which assesses people for their risk of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and dementia. Just 8.1% of the eligible population (1,258,940 people) were given the check-up.
NHS data, published on 13 June 2019, shows that over the past five years, 90% of eligible adults have been offered the check and 43.3% of the population have received the check.
The NHS Health Check was introduced in England in April 2009 and is historically offered by GPs or community pharmacists. It is aimed at all adults aged 40–74 years and is offered every five years. People in that age group with pre-existing conditions are not eligible to take part. In 2018, Public Health England added dementia risk to the list of conditions it targets.
Community pharmacists can be contracted to deliver the check as an enhanced locally commissioned service. It is typically commissioned either by an individual clinical commissioning group or local council.
According to the latest information from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s database, 38 local pharmaceutical committees have been commissioned to deliver the NHS Health Check.
The majority, where the contractor is known, have been commissioned by local authorities. Some 30 of the total 38 contracts are ongoing — 6 have been decommissioned and 2 have been completed.
NHS England says it is committed to “improving the effectiveness” of the NHS Health Check — especially in tackling cardiovascular disease (CVD) — as part of the ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ published in January 2019.
The plan says voluntary sector partners, community pharmacists and GP practices will “provide opportunities for the public to check on their health, through tests for high blood pressure and other high-risk conditions.”
Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “If NHS England is serious about the benefit of health checks, then it needs to consider different ways of encouraging the public to take up the offer.
“Community pharmacy is well placed to help deliver this important service and could do much in the area of diabetes and CVD detection, where early detection can literally save lives. Local authorities are a separate matter, as their public health budgets have been slashed in recent years, so this really should become a properly focused NHS England initiative, rather than the current local hotchpotch. Primary care networks will be an ideal opportunity to join up some thinking about how to refresh this service and put pharmacy centre stage.”