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Barely half of those eligible for NHS Health Check actually getting it

Only eight local authorities have met the targets set by Public Health England

Caroline White

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Barely half of those eligible for an NHS Health Check in England are actually getting one, finds a new report published today by charity Diabetes UK.

NHS Health Checks in Local Authorities shows that just 6.4% of people aged 40 to 74 got one of the checks in the first nine months after responsibility for the programme transferred from the NHS to local government.

This is significantly less than the 11.25% of people in this age range Diabetes UK says should be getting the check.

This figure is based on councils meeting the Public Health England vision of offering the check to 15% or more of the eligible population in the first nine months of the year, and 75% taking up the offer.

Only eight local authorities have met these targets: Leicester City; Blackpool; Stockport; Kingston on Thames; Wandsworth; Luton; and Rutland.

Nine local authorities delivered the check to less than 3% of the eligible population, and the report shows that councils have kept up the standard of performance handed over to them—good or bad.

The check, which assesses an individual’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions, switched from NHS to local government control in April last year when local councils assumed responsibility for public health as part of widespread reforms to the organization of health and social care.

The report also highlights low take up in some areas, suggesting that the checks may not be being offered in the most effective way. And many people identified as being at high risk of type 2 diabetes are not then being offered the support they need to make healthy lifestyle changes, it says.

Diabetes UK recognises that implementing the programme can be challenging for local authorities, but it is calling for areas with low rates of completed health checks to learn from those where rates are high in a bid to boost their performance.

The charity also wants greater clarity on whose responsibility it is to deliver lifestyle support for those identified as being at high risk.

And it suggests that NHS England should mandate appropriate follow up and management of people at high risk of type 2 diabetes through the GP contract and the introduction of a register of people at high risk of the condition.

“The NHS Health Check is one of the best new health initiatives this country has seen in recent years and, if rolled out properly, it has the potential to prevent thousands of cases of type 2 diabetes and identify many people with undiagnosed [disease],” commented Barbara Young, who heads up Diabetes UK.

“But it will only have the maximum benefit if everyone who is supposed to get a health check actually gets one. At the moment that is not happening. Also, it is worrying that in some areas hardly anyone is getting one and in those areas it really needs to be a priority to change this so that people get these checks wherever they live,” she added.

She emphasised that once people are identified as being at high risk or as having type 2 diabetes, it was vital that they were given support to make the healthy lifestyle changes that could improve their health.

“The potential benefit of the NHS Health Check for our nation’s health is too high for us not to get it right,” she said.

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