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Health checks waste £450 million annually, economic report says

22 September 2015

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The NHS Health Check programme wastes £450 million a year and is ineffective, an economics report states.

The health checks for 40-74 year olds aims to prevent heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease stroke and dementia, and support patients to reduce their risk of future disease.

However, the report from London School of Economics and University of Liverpool said the health checks (NHSHC) fail to achieve both of these aims, branding them “ineffective”.

Furthermore, the programme “relies on weak concepts, denies strong scientific counter-evidence and ignores persistent implementation issues,” it read.

The report said: “Preventing 1,000 deaths annually could cost up to £450,000 per death avoided. And costs will obviously spiral substantially now that NICE have roughly doubled the number of potentially eligible people for treatment.”

These costs are “rarely acknowledged and often dismissed” the report said, branding the NICE estimate of around £3,000 per QALY (quality-adjusted life-year) “look rather fanciful”.

It adds: “Health care professionals, services and local authorities are all mandated to implement NHSHCs. In spite of austerity policies, they are required to commit time and scarce resources to activities of debatable effectiveness and cost-effectiveness…This saps morale, particularly considering the substantial opportunity costs of failing to invest those scarce resources in alternative, more effective interventions. For instance, many child and maternal health interventions are proven to be cost-saving.”

It calls on the the government to create an independent institute of Public Health urgently, stating that civil servants in the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England have to ‘toe the party line’ in public, despite privately agreeing that NHSHC are costly and ineffective.

The report said: “Only then will ministers receive objective, scientific advice on public health. The British people deserve no less.”