The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

NHS Health Checks fail the most deprived, researchers say

Scheme targeting diet and tobacco would be better

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 10 June 2016

The NHS Health Check programme fails to support cardiovascular health, according to new research. 

Introduced in 2009, the NHS Health Check programme promotes the screening of all healthy individuals aged 40 to 74 for CVD risk stratification and treatment of those at high-risk.

The debate regarding its scientific foundation, effectiveness and cost effectiveness, however, has been heated. Hence, researchers from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, working with colleagues from the University of Manchester, decided to examine the potential impact of universal screening for primary cardiovascular disease prevention on disease burden and socioeconomic health inequalities.

Co-lead, Dr Chris Kypridemos, explained: "The topic of NHS Health Checks is controversial. The government is currently spending somewhere between £70m and £400m per year on this scheme which is very costly and most likely inefficient. Our research estimated that in England structural population-wide interventions targeting unhealthy diet and tobacco might be three times more effective than the existing screening policy.”

The researchers developed a new computer model, called IMPACTNCD to explain the past trends in English population, and make predictions about likely future trends. Using the model, the scientists compared different strategies, and examined the effects on equity. This included comparing the conventional way to deliver Health Checks with an alternative approach which particularly targets deprived areas, and also a 'population-wide' approach targeting improvements in diet and reducing smoking.

Dr Kypridemos concluded: "The findings of our study strongly suggest that NHS Health Checks are not the best option for preventing heart disease or stroke, nor for reducing socioeconomic inequalities in these diseases.

"We propose that a comprehensive strategy, combining structural population-wide interventions with screening only in the most deprived areas, where the burden of cardiovascular disease is higher, is most likely to maximise both effectiveness and equity of primary cardiovascular prevention.”

The findings are published in The BMJ.*

* Kypridemos C, et al. Cardiovascular screening to reduce the burden from cardiovascular disease: microsimulation study to quantify policy options. BMJ 2016;353:i2793. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i2793

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470