The health secretary announced a review into the NHS Health Check service today.

Plans to move away from ‘one-size-fits-all’ health checks to personalised services in England unveiled

By Leontina Postelnicu
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People aged between 40 and 74 in England could be offered “intelligent, predictive” health checks that take into account their age, lifestyle and risk factors in a review of the NHS Health Check programme announced by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock today.

WHAT HAPPENED

At the moment, the NHS Health Check service is based on a consultation where a health professional asks people about their lifestyle and family history, measures their height and weight, takes their blood pressure and does a blood test. The aim is to help prevent the onset of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Uptake of the programme varies across England. More than 14 million people have been invited to a check-up in the past five years, but only around half took up the offer.

According to the DHSC, the service has helped identify over 700,000 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease, but evidence points to a need for “more tailored” services.  

“There may also be a case for a particular focus on supporting people through key changes in their life, in particular thinking about future care needs and how they can remain healthy and active in older age,” it was added in a green paper released by the government at the end of July.

WHY IT MATTERS

The review unveiled today will explore the potential for improving the system by using data-driven technologies, offering personalised interventions, increasing uptake, expanding the range of checks provided and digitising them “where appropriate”.

The DHSC said an “intelligent check” could provide 40 to 49-year-olds with advice about drinking, as alcohol use is more prevalent in this age group, while those between 70 and 74 could receive information on how to reduce their blood pressure.

THE LARGER TREND

The July green paper, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, sets out a series of proposals for projects aiming to improve people’s health and wellbeing by harnessing the use of data and technology.

NHSX, the new unit for digital, data and technology officially launched at the beginning of July, will work with Public Health England on a Predictive Prevention programme.

“PHE will be testing the hypothesis that combining person-generated data with existing health data can help us predict poor health in the future and create an opportunity to prevent it with more personalised advice and services,” Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, explained in a blog last month.

ON THE RECORD

Commenting on the review of the NHS Health Check service, 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.”