Less than half of patients attend NHS health checks, show official figures

This is an interesting issue for the NHS and a comparison can be made with decisions that employers take about their own approach to health screening for their employees.

‘NHS Health Checks’ is a Govenment flagship programme which aims to pick up patients aged 40 to 74 at high risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes  – two of the highest incidence and biggest cost diseases but also two of the most preventable.

Of the 15m people eligible, only 16.5% get invited and  8% actually take up the check – a rate of 50%. Whilst there is concern about this take up rate, I think most employers would be delighted to get the same rate on a company paid initiative.

A study analysing data from the NHS Health Checks scheme in 2011/2012, published last month in the Journal of Public Health, concluded that coverage was too low currently to make the programme pay for itself.  This could well be the case, but the cost benefits of investing in this health programme need to be measured over a longer term – something which employers also need to bear in mind for their own investments in this area.

I’m not defending the current perceived low take up and I know that Public Health England are unikely to hit the original target of inviting 15m people by 2018/19, but the risk stratification approach they are taking deserves some recognition.

The point of comparison is that employers would be well advised to look at their health risks in a similar way rather than invest in non-specific programmes on a one size fits all basis where the take up rate is often signifcantly less than 50% and the value of investment is highly questionable.

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