Recent analysis from Diabetes UK shows that uptake of NHS Health Checks is not increasing in all areas, with less than half of over 40s eligible for an NHS Health Check in the last five years having received one.
The programme offers a five-yearly check-up to everyone aged 40 to 74 with the aim of spotting the early signs of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, kidney disease, heart disease and dementia.
The analysis found that there is a significant regional variation of uptake of NHS Health Checks across England. In the East of England, 50% of the eligible population attended the health check between 2013 and 2018, but in the South West, this figure was lower, at only 35%.
On a local authority level, this variation is higher still, with the best performing local authorities having a five times greater attendance rate than the worst. Walsall is the only local authority in England where 99% of the eligible population received a health check, Bolton at 91.7% and Westminster at 91%. The worst performing areas are East Riding of Yorkshire and Croydon with 18%, followed closely by Surrey at 18.6%.
Since 2013, local authorities have a legal duty to ‘seek continuous improvement’ in the uptake of NHS Health Checks in their area, with funding from Public Health England. However, only 55 local authorities delivered more NHS Health Checks in 2017-2018 than they did in 2015-2016, while the remaining 97 delivered fewer.
Diabetes UK is urging local authorities to do more to get people to their health check. The NHS Health Check is a vital route for referral into the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme for those who are found to be at high risk of Type 2 diabetes.
There are 12.3 million people at increased risk of developing diabetes, just one of the diseases looked for at the NHS Health Check, and knowing their risk could help them prevent the onset of the condition. It is also estimated that there are nearly 1 million people currently living with Type 2 diabetes who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed.
Robin Hewings, Head of Policy at Diabetes UK, said, 'The success of the programme in certain areas is due to local councils working hard to make it easier for people to attend these free health checks that only take 15 minutes and can help keep people healthy.
'It is absolutely vital that all people who are eligible in every area get a health check. If left undiagnosed, Type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications, including blindness, amputations, stroke and kidney failure, but with the right treatment and support people living with the condition can lead a long, full and healthy life.'
Councillor Nick Forbes, Senior Vice Chair of the Local Government Association, has responded to the analysis of uptake of NHS Health Checks, saying, 'Councils have spent millions of pounds inviting more than 14 million eligible people to have an NHS Health Check over the last five years, of which around half have taken up the offer.
'However, if we are to continue to tackle or delay avoidable ill health such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in England, it is vital that eligible people get checked in order to increase uptake rates.
'This will not only help people live healthier lives for longer, by identifying undetected risk factors and targeting high risk groups, but also reduce huge pressures and costs on the NHS, social care and councils’ public health services as well as wider society.
'To reduce the variation in the number of offers and uptake across the country, it is vital that the joined-up work between councils and the NHS is strengthened and organisations, such as Diabetes UK, join our call for government to reverse reductions to councils' public health budgets.'