Thousands in county failing to attend vital health MOT

Warwickshire residents missing out on vital health checks
Warwickshire residents missing out on vital health checks

Two-thirds of people have missed out on health screening checks designed to catch potentially killer conditions early in Warwickshire, figures show.

Adults aged between 40 and 74 in England should be invited for an NHS health check-up by their local authority every five years. The check is designed to spot early signs of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and dementia, and to treat those found to be at risk.

Figures from Public Health England, however, show just 34 per cent of the 168,700 eligible adults in Warwickshire had a check in the five years to December 2018, meaning 110,800 people missed out.

Lucy Martin, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said it was "very concerning" so many people were not having their appointments. "These checks can be vital in detecting those at risk of heart and circulatory diseases, and could potentially save thousands of lives," she said.

"It is really important that we all ‘know our numbers’ in terms of blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. We estimate that around 12 million adults in England have high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, yet as many as one-third of these people remain undiagnosed."

Professor Jamie Waterall, national lead for the health check programme at PHE, said heart disease, stroke and diabetes were among the biggest causes of early death and ill health, but that most cases are preventable. PHE estimates around 15.6 million people across the country are eligible for the health check.

Around 85 per cent of them were offered an appointment in the last five years. However, some councils may have double counted the residents they sent invites too, meaning the proportion offered an appointment could be lower.

People with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions or risk factors such as high blood pressure won't be invited as they are already receiving treatment. Councils are legally required to try to improve the uptake rate each year, with PHE saying a high rate is key to the programme's cost effectiveness.

Between October and December last year, the take-up rate in Warwickshire rose to 34 per cent, compared to 21 per cent the previous year.

The Local Government Association said the programme was vital to help reduce pressure and costs on the NHS, social care and public services. Ian Hudspeth, chair of the Community Well-being Board, said: "Councils have spent millions of pounds inviting more than 16 million eligible people to have an NHS Health Check over the last six years. It is vital that the Government reverses the £700 million reductions that it has made to councils’ public health budgets in the forthcoming Spending Review, to strengthen the joined-up work between councils and the NHS, reduce variation in the number of offers, target underserved groups and increase uptake across the country.”

Professor Waterall added: "Public Health England is working hard to support councils in delivering this world-leading prevention programme."