Sharp uptake in NHS Health Checks participation

Author: Adrian O'Dowd
Sharp uptake in NHS Health Checks participation

Numbers of people in England participating in a NHS Health Check has risen by 51% in the past six years, according to new data* released by NHS Digital, although overall participation is still only around half of those invited.

The health check – a 20-minute assessment by a GP or nurse involving blood pressure, weight and height measurements is automatically offered to everyone aged between 40 and 74 with no pre-existing health conditions every five years.

It is designed to spot early signs of possible stroke or heart attack risk, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and includes advice about dementia.

The new figures show that the number of patients recorded as having completed an NHS Health Check rose from 734,000 in 2012-13 to 1,109,000 in 2017-18 – peaking at 1,161,000 in 2015-16 – representing a 51% rise between 2012 and 2018.

Most (90%) GP practices in England were included in the dataset which also provided information about age, gender and ethnicity for the first time.

Of those recorded as completing an NHS Health Check in 2017-18, 54% were female and 46% were male.

The number of Asian or Asian British patients recorded as having attended their check rose from 48,000 in 2012-13 (6.5% of the total patients attending) to 99,000 in 2017-18 (8.9% of the total patients attending).

The number of Black or African or Caribbean or Black British patients recorded as having attended their check rose from 24,000 in 2012-13 (3.3% of the total patients attending) to 46,000 in 2017-18 (4.1% of the total patients attending).

The scheme still has some way to go in terms of persuading everyone to participate. The data also showed that in 2017-18, 1,595,000 people were recorded as having not attended their check.

Of these, 1,529,000 patients did not respond to the invitation, 57,000 patients declined it, 7,000 did not attend and 2,000 started but did not complete their check.

The age group with the highest attendance rate of 54.5% of those invited in 2017-18 was 65-69-year-olds while 40-44-year-olds had the lowest attendance rate with 35.9% of those invited that year recorded as having attended their check.

In August, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced an evidence-based review into the NHS Health Check service, which has been criticised for not paying enough attention to people’s individual risks or needs.

The ongoing review is exploring how to improve the system, with a focus on offering personalised interventions based on factors such as age, where people live, and DNA.

The review will also explore:

  • a special check-up for people approaching retirement age to help prevent or delay future care needs
  • increasing the range of advice the checks can offer, such as prevention of musculoskeletal problems or early action on hearing loss
  • ways to increase the uptake of health checks
  • the digitisation of health checks where appropriate.

Mr Hancock said at the time: “Personalised, preventative healthcare is mission critical to the future-fit healthcare service we want to build. We must harness the latest technology and techniques to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach of the past.”

* NHS Health Check programme, Patients Recorded as Attending and Not Attending, 2012-13 to 2017-18. NHS Digital, October 2019