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Health Checks for all start this week

Simple tests and measurements for 40 to 74-year-olds could save 650 lives

OnMedica staff

Monday, 30 March 2009

NHS Health Checks, which could prevent 1600 heart attacks and strokes each year and help save 650 lives will begin this week, Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced today.

He also announced the abolition of prescription charges for cancer patients and the start of MRSA screening for elective patients.

Everyone aged between 40-74 in England will begin to be invited for a free health check as part of a national programme to identify their risk of diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. Mr Johnson said the programme is an essential tool in tackling health inequalities across the country.

The health checks are part of a drive to ensure that people from this age group have the necessary information about their health in order to make important lifestyle changes and reduce their risks of developing diseases like diabetes and coronary heart disease. These illnesses currently affect the lives of 4 million people in England and are responsible for a fifth of all hospital admissions.

The checks are part of the drive towards a more preventative NHS and will be rolled out across England from Wednesday and are expected to be fully implemented by 2012/13. They are likely to be available at GP surgeries, health centres, walk in centres and pharmacies to ensure as many people benefit from them as possible.

The health checks will consist of:

  • Straightforward questions to patients on their health and diet, exercise habits and family medical history
  • Height and weight  measurements taken from patients
  • A simple blood test for cholesterol and in some cases for glucose levels
  • A follow up, personal assessment setting out the individual's level of risk and what they can do to reduce this
  • Recommendations of what could be done to reduce risk including: weight management programmes, stop smoking, physical activity programmes

Primary Care Trusts are designing their own local implementation plans to make sure that they can deliver the checks and follow up services that will best suit the needs of the local population.

Wednesday will also see trusts being able to offer MRSA screening to all relevant elective patients. This will allow the NHS to reduce the chances of patients getting an MRSA infection, or passing MRSA onto another patient. Although the number of people getting infections from MRSA is falling (latest figures show reductions of 38%), we still have further to go and this is part of our continued efforts to reduce numbers even further.

1st April is also the date when the abolition of NHS prescription charges for everyone undergoing treatment for cancer, the effects of cancer, or the effects of cancer treatment, will also come into effect. Up to 150,000 patients already diagnosed with cancer are expected to benefit, saving them £100 or more each year in prescription charges.

Mr Johnson said: "The NHS is becoming more personal and responsive to individual needs; becoming as good at prevention and keeping people healthy as it is at providing care and cures; and able to offer the information and support people need to make healthy choices.

"There are a number of different commitments that we are delivering on which will start from this April. The national programme of Health Checks could save 650 lives a year and reduce the health inequalities that blight the lives of the country's most deprived families.

"Screening of all relevant elective patients for MRSA before admission is an and additional preventative measure that will help to protect patients against infection, and also, free prescriptions for people living with cancer and related conditions is one less worry for them at such a difficult time and will be welcomed by many patients and their families."

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