The NHS Health Check programme aims to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease by assessing risk factors for these conditions in people aged 40 to 74. Implementation of the programme began in 2009, and there have been reports that it is under threat in some areas due to lack of funding and waning support from GPs. Whilst some regions have been proactive and innovative in their approach, others are yet to implement the Health Checks programme.
HEART UK sent Freedom of Information requests to 152 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across England in September 2011 to collect information about the local provision and implementation of NHS Health Checks. The charity received 111 responses, a response rate of 73 per cent, and information received revealed that the NHS Health Checks programme has made a patchy start.
Dr Bob Cramb, Chair of HEART UK, said of the results: “It’s encouraging that four out of the five regions with the highest death rates for coronary heart disease were among the top five regions for providing Health Checks. It shows that these regions recognise the benefits of the programme, and are working hard to make sure that patients are accessing the service. However, only 15 of those PCTs surveyed are providing the Health Checks in places other than GP surgeries or pharmacies. This is despite the fact that this programme should be improving access to services for hard to reach groups. Nine of the PCTs who responded to the survey had not delivered a single Health Check.”
HEART UK is calling on Primary Care Trusts to fulfil the requirements placed upon them by the NHS to ensure that the Health Checks programme is a priority and is made available to all people aged between 40 and 74.Targeting the harder to reach groups at a local level also has to be a key focus.
In an impassioned presentation during an event at Westminster, HEART UK Chief Executive Jules Payne urged MPs to ensure Health Checks are a priority within their constituencies:
“Tackling heart disease must be a priority for Primary Care Trusts and undertaking Health Checks is a cost-effective and straightforward way of picking up risk factors for heart conditions before it is too late. The Health Check programme is under threat and not being implemented uniformly across the country and action must be taken to ensure it continues to save lives and public money.
“Coronary heart disease (CHD) puts pressure on families, livelihoods and the NHS. In the current economic climate, this country cannot afford to undo the progress that has been made towards tackling heart disease. Through identifying cardiovascular risks and helping to prevent heart disease, the NHS Health Checks programme can deliver on major Government objectives for health, particularly through heart disease prevention, which can lead to better health and cost savings.”
HEART UK believes that the NHS Health Checks, if universally pursued throughout the country, engage the public in health prevention by:
•identifying potential risk factors for vascular disease
•providing individuals with information to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease through lifestyle changes
•reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease through treatment where necessary
HEART UK CHOLESTEROL REPORT KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
RECOMMENDATION 1: Where PCTs are not already doing so, consideration should be given to where the NHS Health Checks programme can be provided to reach society’s most at-risk groups
RECOMMENDATION 2: PCTs to audit local CVD services to consider how local initiatives can be joined-up with local NHS Health Check services
RECOMMENDATION 3: The Government must ensure that the NHS Commissioning Board oversees the continued delivery of the NHS Health Checks programme and monitors local implementation rigorously
RECOMMENDATION 4: The Department of Health and the new NHS Commissioning Board should devise a system for sharing best practice across PCTs to help with the roll out of the NHS Health Checks programme
RECOMMENDATION 5: Targets for delivering the NHS Health Checks programme should continue to be specified in the NHS Operating Framework until the programme is fully rolled out across England
RECOMMENDATION 6: NICE should review QOF indicators for secondary prevention of CHD and ensure that all existing targets reflect best practice guidelines and are ambitious enough to help individuals achieve the best possible outcomes.
RECOMMENDATION 7: The Government and Royal Colleges should consider how best to support GPs and other healthcare professionals to provide lifestyle advice and support to patients
RECOMMENDATION 8: Local authorities should consider adopting innovative best practice examples for promoting public health locally ENDS
NOTES TO EDITORS
About Heart Disease in the UK
Heart disease is the number one killer in the UK with almost 200,000 people dying from heart and circulatory diseases each year, a quarter of which are under the age of 75.
The cost of cardiovascular disease to the UK economy is in the region of £30 billion a year, with raised cholesterol being one of the most significant risk factors.
For people who have already suffered an event such as a heart attack or stroke, their chances of suffering a further event increases significantly. Of the 250,000 people in the UK admitted to hospital every year with a heart attack or unstable angina, around 30% will have another heart attack, be re-admitted to hospital for a second time or will die within six months.
The costs of continued care increase with readmission and rehabilitation, which is reflected in rising financial pressures.
About HEART UK
HEART UK was formed in 2002 following a merger of The Family Heart Association (FHA) and the British Hyperlipidaemia Association (BHA).
HEART UK - The Cholesterol Charity - promotes healthy hearts and better lives by:
•helping and supporting individuals, families and health professionals to understand and control cholesterol conditions and other heart risks
•promoting education and research to improve identification, prevention, treatment and care of cholesterol and lipid conditions
•working in partnership with government, the NHS, industry and other charities
•promoting best practice in addressing inherited and non-inherited cholesterol conditions
Two thirds of adults in the UK have raised cholesterol. Over 120,000 people in Britain have a form of inherited high cholesterol called Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) which can cause premature death as those as young as 30 – and only 15% of those with the condition are known.
MSD have financially contributed towards the funding and production of this report. MSD have reviewed the content for compliance purpose but have not verified every fact. Unilever have also contributed towards the funding and production of this report.
The development of this report has been supported by a grant from Genzyme Therapeutics Limited. Genzyme Therapeutics Limited has had no editorial input or control over the contents of this report.
People wishing to find out more about FH
Please contact: HEART UK helpline - 0845 450 5988 or visit www.heartuk.org.uk
For media inquiries please contact:
David Alexander, Calacus PR on 07802-412424 or david.alexander@
Hannah Slater, Calacus PR on 07731-769269 or hannah.slater@
1.Scarborough et al, Coronary Heart Disease Statistics 2010 edition; British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group and Department of Public Health, University of Oxford 2010.
3.AH Gershlick et al, Ischaemic heart disease: therapeutic issues; British Medical Bulletin, October 2001
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Calacus PR was established in 2007 by David Alexander, a former national and international sports journalist. Calacus has expertise in international sports campaigns, media relations, consumer and corporate consultancy and athlete representation.