Ministers are to scrap ‘one-size-fits-all’ NHS health MOTs for the middle aged and replace them with finely tailored medical checks
- The current NHS Health Checks scheme is offered to anyone aged 40 to 74
- But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the scheme is going to be revamped
- They will harness tech such as genetic testing to create a personal programme
- The existing scheme relies on a battery of checks, including blood pressure
Ministers are to scrap ‘one-size-fits-all’ health MOTs for the middle aged and replace them with finely tailored medical checks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the revamped NHS Health Checks scheme – which is offered to anyone aged 40 to 74 – will harness modern technology such as genetic testing to create a personalised programme to prevent disease later in life.
The existing scheme, which was introduced in 2009, relies on a battery of checks examining issues such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
But the programme has come under criticism for its ‘blanket’ approach – with one Imperial College study published in 2016 suggesting it prevented just one heart attack or stroke for every 4,762 people who attend a health check in a year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the revamped NHS Health Checks scheme – which is offered to anyone aged 40 to 74 – will harness modern technology such as genetic testing to create a personalised programme to prevent disease later in life
Mr Hancock said: ‘Personalised, preventative healthcare is mission critical to the future-fit healthcare service we want to build.
‘We must harness the latest technology and techniques to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach of the past.
‘The review we are announcing today will be an important step towards achieving that, helping us to find data-led, evidenced based ways to support people to spot, manage and prevent risks to their health through targeted intervention.’
Announcing a major review of the programme, he said the blanket approach which has defined the scheme would become ‘a thing of the past’.
Officials said the changes are part of a wider shift away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to public health, to a ‘modernised, future-proof system’ that ‘takes risk or personal choices into account’.
Currently health checks are offered on a standard basis to everyone over the age of 40-74, with little attention to their individual risks or needs.
WHAT IS AN NHS HEALTH CHECK?
NHS England introduced the Health Check programme for adults aged 40 to 74 a decade ago.
Patients registered with a GP are invited to attend these 30-minute appointments every five years.
The scheme relies on a battery of checks examining issues such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
Critics have argued the checks are expensive, with research suggesting they do not protect against ill health or premature death.
And the programme has come under criticism for its ‘blanket’ approach – with one Imperial College study published in 2016 suggesting it prevented just one heart attack or stroke for every 4,762 people who attend a health check in a year.
However, a study of more than 450,000 people last month found those who attend are slimmer, less likely to smoke and have lower blood pressure years later.
But ministers are planning to scrap ‘one-size-fits-all’ health MOTs for the middle aged and replace them with finely tailored medical checks, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
The review will explore ways to overhaul the system by ’empowering people’ to reduce their chance of developing conditions such as high blood pressure or type two diabetes with ‘personalised, intelligent health checks’, the Department of Health said.
Officials are yet to provide precise details of what the new scheme will include, but they said they would harness ‘the latest technology, techniques, and data’ and would include factors ‘that could include their age, where they live and their DNA’ to personalise health checks.
They said the ‘new look’ programme will draw from the lessons of cancer diagnosis and treatment, which is the most advanced area in personalised medicine.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, which runs the programme, insisted the existing NHS Health Checks scheme had been a success but admitted ‘cutting-edge’ techniques would improve the programme.
The worth of the scheme has been hotly debated since its introduction 10 years ago.
In 2013, the Royal College of GPs described the £300million-a-year scheme as a ‘waste of money’ while 2012 research from the respected Cochrane group found it did not reduce deaths.
A report in 2015 by the London School of Economics said it was ‘ineffective’ and a 2014 review found that illnesses spotted during the checks could be equally well detected in standard care.
But a more recent study, published last month by King’s College London, found those who attended the checks had ‘slightly lower’ bodyweight, blood pressure and smoking rates six years later.
Mr Selbie said: ‘Predictive prevention becomes ever more possible through genomics and the application of cutting edge behavioural science.
‘NHS Health Checks have been phenomenally successful and this review is a great opportunity to make the next generation the most effective in the world.’