Public Health England Calls For More NHS Health Checks
30th July 2013
A recent review by Public Health England found that if 40 to 74-year-olds had their blood pressure, lifestyle, weight and cholesterol checked more regularly, health problems and illnesses would be identified at an earlier time and around 650 preventable deaths could be avoided every year.
Furthermore, 4,000 cases of diabetes and 1,600 heart attacks would be avoided, while 20,000 cases of kidney disease or diabetes could be noticed earlier and treated more effectively.
In England at the moment:
– 850,000 people have type 2 diabetes and are unaware of this
– Over 10,000,000 people drink more alcohol than is healthy
– Preventable risk factors lead to a person’s first heart attack in almost 90% of cases
– At least 4,000,000 people have vascular disease
Many people can receive health checks for free – around 15 million people in England alone could have a health check performed on the NHS right now. While they may experience misdiagnosis and have to make a clinical negligence compensation claim, they will be more likely to have serious health problems properly diagnosed, significantly increasing their life expectancy.
Councils should do more to encourage people to go through these health checks and to refer at-risk members of the public to the relevant services. Blocks that prevent people from having their health monitored should be removed and local authorities should ensure that the programme reaches a consistently high standard.
However, there are concerns about whether the take-up of free health checks will ever reach an appropriate size, with many people reluctant to go to the doctors and discuss their fitness. It’s not a fear of medical negligence claims or personal injuries that people dislike about health checks – instead, it’s being told that their unhealthy habits are unhealthy.
Although ten million people drink an unhealthy amount of alcohol, it is likely that a vast majority of this demographic is aware that their drinking habits are unhealthy. People often complain that when they go to the GP or visit a doctor, they have to endure a “lecture” about drinking, smoking, food consumption and other bad habits. Patients say they have to face a telling-off about their bad habits despite the fact that the illness that caused them to visit the doctor is unrelated to their bad habits.
As these health check-ups would involve analysis of a person’s lifestyle, it is likely that people would face the same problems and would be reluctant to go through the check-up for fear of facing another “lecture”.
Whether there is any resolution to this problem is uncertain. The UK is facing an epidemic of non-communicable, preventable diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and people’s lifestyles are frequently to blame for these conditions. Nonetheless, people with unhealthy lifestyles talk of a reluctance to visit the doctor as they do not want to be told to change their bad habits. Doctors have an ethical duty to protect their patient’s health, and unfortunately, criticising over-eating, smoking and drinking is a vital part of doing so.