Birmingham's Health Check success

By on 25/02/2013 in Blog, Cllr Bedser
Cllr Steve Bedser

Cllr Steve Bedser

Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, comments on the successful implementation of the NHS Health Check programme in Birmingham.

When it was introduced in April 2009, the NHS health check programme was largely welcomed by public health experts.

Who could oppose an initiative to tackle heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease by offering everyone aged 40-74 a free NHS health check every five years?

Three-and-a-half years later, critics say it has failed to close health inequalities. Furthermore, a report in the British Medical Journal recently claimed it is the 'worried well’ who receive checks, meaning money is spent on reassuring these people rather than reaching those who would benefit from addressing lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, obesity, inactivity and identifying those with undiagnosed conditions.

But the real problem is in the delivery and, in some cases, the failure to deliver the programme. Evidence suggests that medium or high-risk individuals are less likely to be regular users of health services, so using primary care alone to drive the programme is not enough. Instead, we should be taking the initiative to communities and individuals most at risk. That’s what we’ve done in Birmingham and the figures suggest the approach is proving a success.

Birmingham has higher than average smoking and obesity rates, residents have poorer diets, exercise less and consume more harmful levels of alcohol than other parts of the UK. In addition, evidence suggests the uptake of population-based screening programmes is lower among socio-economically deprived and ethnic minority groups.

So, rather than relying solely on primary care, we target our most at-risk groups. We’ve commissioned services through GPs, pharmacists and alternative providers who specialise in working with vulnerable and high-risk groups. And the results? In the first three years of the programme, 149,576 residents were invited to attend a health check and 105,482 did so.

As a result, around 7,500 people were identified as having conditions like diabetes and hypertension, while all those attending received lifestyle advice. It would be wrong to say that health inequalities have been eradicated in Birmingham but the figures speak for themselves. From April 2013, local authorities will be responsible for commissioning this service, so I urge you to ensure that it is working well in your area and ensure it delivers everything it can for residents who need it most.

NHS Health Check and you

The NHS Health Check programme is for adults in England aged between 40 and 74. If you’re invited for an NHS Health Check you’ll be offered a series of routine tests that will help identify your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes.

Why do I need an NHS Health Check?

Everyone has a chance of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease or type 2 diabetes. NHS Health Check will help you and your GP or health professional to identify your risk earlier. You’ll then be given advice on what action you can take to lower your risk and improve your chances of a healthier life. For example, making changes to your diet or becoming more active.

How do I get an NHS Health Check?

If you’re aged between 40 and 74 and haven’t already been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or had a stroke, you will be invited for your check at some time over the coming years. Local primary care trusts (PCTs) will choose who receives the check first. This means it may be some time before you’re invited. If you're registered with a GP, you may be invited for the check by letter, or you may be offered the check when you’re at your GP or local pharmacy for another reason. If you're not registered with a GP, it’s a good idea to register now. You can find your local GP surgery in Find and choose services.

If you're concerned about your health, don’t wait until your NHS Health Check to do something about it. Go to your GP as you would normally. Adults who have already been diagnosed with one of the four diseases won’t be invited for the check, and their condition will continue to be managed as usual.

Where will my NHS Health Check happen?

Your NHS Health Check could take place at your local GP surgery, but it may also be available at local pharmacies and elsewhere.

What happens at my NHS Health Check?

A few, straightforward health tests, followed by a discussion of your results. Learn more in What happens at NHS Health Check?

What happens after my check?

Following your first check, you’ll be invited for another check every five years until you’re over 74. If you’re diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease or have a stroke after your first or any subsequent NHS Health Check, your condition will be managed as usual and there will be no need for further checks. If your GP offers you any medical treatments after your NHS Health Check, such as medicines to lower your blood pressure, your progress on those medicines will be monitored by your GP.

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