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11-02-2013 | General practice | Article

Further doubt over health checks


Free abstract

medwireNews: A study of GP practices in one London borough has found that only a third of high-risk patients accepted their invitation to an NHS health check during the first year of the programme.

The level of uptake and subsequent statin prescriptions were well below those anticipated by the Department of Health in cost effectiveness models, leading the study's authors to further question the scheme's value.

Among 31 GP practices in Hammersmith and Fulham, uptake was 32.7% among 4,748 high-risk (10-year cardiovascular death [CVD] risk ≥20%) patients eligible in the first year, and only 20.0% among 32,364 non high-risk patients invited through opportunistic screening in the second year. Statins were prescribed in 52.9% of patients confirmed to be at high risk of cardiovascular disease after the health check.

These figures contrast with the previous government's estimates that 75% of eligible patients would attend the check, with 85% consequently receiving statins.

In October, a Cochrane review concluded that the NHS Health Checks scheme has little impact on morbidity or mortality, and the authors suggested it should be discontinued (click here).

Authors of the current study, Dr Macide Artac (Imperial College London) and colleagues, say that the funding might well be better spent elsewhere.

"The Health Check programme will not achieve its aims of reducing CVD burden and health inequalities with a low uptake observed in the study…" they write in Family Practice.

"Further evaluation of cost and clinical effectiveness is needed as programme resources may be better deployed in whole population strategies, to increase physical activity, reduce smoking and encourage healthy eating."

medwireNews is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter