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NHS Health Checks are a “waste of time”

21 August 2013

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The government’s Health Check scheme is a “waste of time” according to Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) chair Clare Gerada. 

Health Checks are offered to millions of people over 40 to spot conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes by looking for risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. 

The Times recently published a letter from Danish researchers criticising the programme. The group from the Nordic Cochrane Centre said health checks have “no proven benefits”. 

RCGP’s Dr Clare Gerada shares these concerns.

She said: “Governments seem to be promoting this against good evidence.

“[Health checks] are pulling in an awful lot of people who have nothing wrong with them. And the very people you would want to be dragging in do not attend.”

Dr Gerada believes the money would be better spent focusing on hard-to-reach groups and policies like plain packaging for cigarettes and minimum pricing for alcohol.

Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, told the BBC: “Far from being useless, there is good evidence that, if properly implemented, it could prevent thousands of cases of type 2 diabetes a year, as well as having a positive impact for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

“And while the £300 million it costs to run might sound like a lot of money, diabetes and other chronic conditions are expensive to treat. This means that once you factor in the savings in healthcare costs, the NHS Health Check is actually expected to save the NHS about £132 million per year.”

The Department of Health says the NHS Health Check programme is based on expert guidance.