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500 Lives in York Saved If Health Checks More Available


10:12am 21st July 2013

More than 650 lives a year could be saved if simple NHS Health Checks were offered throughout the country and taken up, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today in a call to action for people to start thinking more seriously about their health.

A Public Health England (PHE) review has confirmed that checking 40-74-year-olds’ blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and lifestyle could identify problems earlier and prevent 650 deaths, 1,600 heart attacks and 4,000 cases of diabetes a year.

Before local authorities took over responsibility for commissioning Health Checks in April, there was considerable variation in how widely they were offered. PHE, which leads the NHS Health Check programme, has now launched a ten-point plan to help councils roll them out to 20 per cent of their eligible local population a year - 15 million people by 2018/19. 

PHE will also soon launch a website where it will be possible to show how many Health Check offers are being made by each local authority. In the future it will also be possible to look up the details of your nearest NHS Health Check service.

Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, City of York Council, Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones said:

“The publication last month of Public Health England's "Longer Lives" study demonstrated that in York there are about 500 local residents under the age of 75 who die prematurely each year.  While that is a tragic loss of potential life expectancy for each of those individuals, it is even more tragic that two thirds of these early deaths, or one person every day of the year, are potentially preventable.  By screening for signs of things like heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease NHS Health Checks can help us reduced this number, so we need to be doing everything we can to ensure residents access their NHS Health Checks across the city. 

"The transfer of responsibility for improving health and wellbeing back to local authorities earlier this year adds even more urgency and importance to City of York Council’s anti-poverty programme. Poverty is one of the major causes of health inequality, poor health and reduced life expectancy while good health improves an individual’s chances of finding and staying in work and enjoying the consequent financial and social advantages that brings.  This is why the council is so supportive of the NHS Health Checks Programme and is determind to maximise the uptake. 

“In York, NHS Health Checks are currently only available through GP surgeries although City of York Council will be exploring the possibility of offering them through other community settings like pharmacies or community centres. We are concerned that only about half of people offered the Health Checks actually have them done and we will be working hard to increase that uptake, in the meantime, if you are between 40 and 74 and are invited to attend a Health Check please go and have it done - it is potentially life saving and it could add years to your life!"

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“Around 15 million people in England are eligible for a free NHS Health Check that could identify serious conditions early and add years to their life.

“I’d like to see all 40-74 year olds taking up this potentially life-saving opportunity.  And I'd like to see the NHS and local authorities encouraging people in their area to get involved.  We could save 650 lives a year if there was full take-up." 

“We are an ageing population and thinking about our health early is vital to living a long and prosperous life.”

Director of Health and Wellbeing for Public Health England, Professor Kevin Fenton added:

“NHS Health Check programme offers a real opportunity to reduce avoidable deaths and disability, and tackle health inequalities in England.

“We must do more to increase uptake and referral to appropriate risk management services, particularly in those communities at greatest risk, to remove blocks in processes that get in the way and make sure the programme is of consistent high quality across the country.

“We will establish an expert clinical and scientific advisory panel to review and advise on the evidence base and we will work with partners to develop a research and analysis programme to support the delivery and evaluation of the programme at both local and national levels.”

Between 2010 and 2020 the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to rise by 27 per cent with those aged 85 and over rising by 44 per cent.

Already in England:

  • more than four million people are estimated to have vascular disease;
  • around  670,000 people are living with dementia;
  • more than ten million people are drinking at increased levels;
  • up to 850,000 people are unaware that they have type two diabetes; and
  • in more than 90 per cent of cases the first heart attack is related to preventable risk factors.

The NHS Health Check programme is for people aged 40-74 in England and is focussed on preventing conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. It is a key part of the Health Secretary’s ambition to save 30,000 lives a year by 2020 following his call to action on avoiding premature mortality.

In June he also exposed the local variation in early death rates through ‘Longer Lives’, a new Public Health England (PHE) website which allows local people to see easily how their areas perform on early deaths from the major four killers, like heart disease and cancer.

NHS Primary Care Trusts began offering NHS Health Checks in 2009 and good progress has been made. However, access has been patchy with some areas facing barriers and challenges to maximising the impact of the programme.

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