Barely half of those eligible for an NHS Health Check in England are actually getting one, according to a new report published by charity Diabetes UK in early April.

NHS Health Checks in Local Authorities shows that just 6.4% of people aged 40 to 74 had one of the checks in the first nine months after responsibility for the programme which was transferred from the NHS to local government in April 2013.

This is significantly less than the 11.25% of people in this age range Diabetes UK says should be getting the check.  Although the local authorities are performing better than the Primary Care Trusts which used to have responsibility, only eight local authorities have met their targets.  My own Local Authority, Kent, has given checks to just 5% of the eligible population....much better than Surrey where the figure is only 0.3%!  Overall, the level of performance ranges from 0.1% to 28%, so some local authorities could do much better!  The programme of checks is part of a 5 year plan and, clearly, needs to speed up if it is to meet the targets.

The check, which assesses an individual’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions, switched from NHS to local government control in April last year when local councils assumed responsibility for public health as part of widespread reforms to the organisation of health and social care.

But, equally importantly, the report also highlights low take up of the offered checks in some areas, suggesting that the checks may not be communicated in the most effective way.  Furthermore, many people identified as being at high risk of type 2 diabetes are not then being offered the support they need to make healthy lifestyle changes, according to Diabetes UK.

Diabetes UK recognises that implementing the programme can be challenging for local authorities, but it is calling for areas with low rates of completed health checks to learn from those where rates are high in a bid to boost their performance.  It seems that the active and widespread involvement of GPs is a crucial factor.

Diabetes UK says that the programme has the potential to substantially reduce the numbers of people developing Type 2 diabetes and its devastating complications.  It also makes a number of recommendations, including:

• Local authorities can learn from each other and share best practice to achieve the 75% take up amongst the eligible population.

• NHS England and local authorities should work together to ensure that people are encouraged to attend an NHS Healthcheck, that they receive a quality check and are followed up appropriately.

• There is a need for greater clarity about where responsibility lies for commissioning intensive lifestyle behaviour change programmes, and to improve the management of people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes through the GP contract and the introduction of a register of people at high risk of diabetes.

Patrick says, “In the UK, there are nearly 3 million people with diabetes.  The numbers have almost doubled in the last 20 years and are expected to rise to 5 million by 2025.  That’s 1 person in 12, with the increase coming from an aging population and a growing tendency to be overweight or obese.

If you think you, or a loved one, may be at risk, get yourself checked.  Either see your GP or, for a quick and easy check order one of our SELFCheck screening tests!”

I have recently read several articles about home testing and, in an ideal world home screening tests would not be necessary.  But, as I have said before, early diagnosis and prompt medical intervention is always beneficial, and figures announced by Diabetes UK indicate that there may be one million undiagnosed Type II diabetics in the UK, which the current NHS systems are just not picking up.  So, how do you identify early signs of an abnormality – you implement a screening programme aimed at “high risk groups”

At least the Government has introduced national bowel cancer screening for people in England & Wales between 60 and 69 (to be extended to age 74).  But last year nearly 1,800 people under 60 died from bowel cancer (about 11% of the total) and 8,800 (56% of the total) people over 75 died of the illness.  Thus, the current screening arrangements do not pick up over half of all bowel cancer sufferers.

The screening tests which 1st Health sell all have regulatory approval and offer a quick, low cost method of establishing if you should visit your GP for more detailed tests.  What is interesting is that women know how reluctant their men folk are to visit their doctor, so we sell more prostate tests to women than to men, as they know that men will not take the initiative themselves!

Bowel cancer facts
Bowel cancer is the UK's second biggest cancer killer and the fourth most common cancer. Just under 16,000 (15,708) people die each year in the UK – that's a life every 32 minutes. Over 40,000 (40,695) people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year - that's one every 13 minutes
One in 14 men and one in 19 women have a lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer
Over 93% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage survive for at least five years compared to less than 7% of those diagnosed at a late stage

Five-year survival rates for bowel cancer have doubled over the last 40 years

More than 8 in 10 cases of bowel cancer occur in people aged 60 or over, but bowel cancer can affect people of all ages.
Statistics from Cancer Research UK: www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/bowel-cancer/