Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced an evidence-based review into the NHS Health Check service.
As part of a wider move away from blanket approaches to public health, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is proposing to an approach that takes personal choices into account, exploring new intelligent, predictive checks that would take age, risk factors and lifestyle into account.
Public Health England (PHE) said the aim was to build a preventative, personalised and predictive health and care service, through the "NHS Long Term Plan", to improve the health of the nation.
Currently, checks are offered to everyone aged between 40 and 74 to spot the early signs of major conditions that cause early death, including stroke, kidney disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, they fail to take into account people’s individual risks or needs.
Proposed improvements to the system of health checks include a focus on offering personalised interventions based on factors such as age, where people live and their DNA.
The review will also consider 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; and the digitisation of health checks where appropriate.
The "NHS Long Term Plan" has committed to preventing 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and cases of dementia. Matt Hancock said: “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.
“The review we are announcing today will be an important step towards achieving that, helping us to find data-led, evidenced-based ways to support people to spot, manage and prevent risks to their health through targeted intervention.”
Public Health Minister Jo Churchill added: “Through the power of cutting-edge technology, we will end the one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare and tailor NHS services to individual patients to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives."
Local Government Association (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board Chairman Ian Hudspeth welcomed the review, stressing that health checks can save lives and prevent people from developing life-threatening conditions. He said: "Councils have done a tremendous job in inviting more than 14 million eligible people to have a check over the last five years, of which 6.8 million have taken up the offer. By engaging people in early conversations about their health, councils have helped people improve their health and reduce the risk of developing serious but preventable conditions. We are keen to do more to improve uptake, especially amongst the most high risk groups."
However, he added that councils had seen cuts of £700 million to their public health funding over the last five years, which has impacted on their ability to continue the good work they have been doing. He said: "This is why we want the Government to reverse these cuts in the upcoming Spending Round and invest in prevention to not only improve the health and quality of life of people but also reduce the burden on council services and the NHS."
Last reviewed 20 August 2019