Concerns over take-up of health checks

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THOUSANDS of people in Hull are missing out on free health checks which aim to cut the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other serious conditions.

The latest figures show the highest number of people taking up the offer of the check since they were introduced by the Department for Health six years ago has been 5,500 in one year - 9,000 under the target.

Health chiefs are trying to increase uptake and are introducing checks, already offered by GPs and pharmacies, in community facilities like leisure centres.

Assistant director for public health Elaine Schofield said they’d tried to find out why people weren’t taking up offers.

She said: “Maybe it is not wanting bad news. We have done all kinds of work to try and find out why. This low uptake is replicated across the region and nationally as well.

“We are trying to look at changing the model and make it more accessible through leisure centres, community-based, away from the medical model and more a lifestyle type model.”

The checks are aimed at people between 40 and 74 and aim to assess risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes, through straightforward tests and questions about family medical history.

Hull has some of the worst mortality rates in the country, with mortality from heart disease 39 per cent higher for men and 50 per cent higher for women than the national average.

Last year the Royal College of GPs poured doubt on the checks saying the Government were promoting the scheme “against good evidence”.

It followed a review which showed health checks did not bring “any beneficial effects and were likely to lead to unnecessary treatments and diagnoses.”

But associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Dr Mike Knapton, who is also a GP, said they were an important tool in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the single biggest killer.

He told the Yorkshire Post: “It is a tool which helps me as a doctor and you as a patient to get some sense of your likelihood of getting a heart attack or a stroke in the future and if it’s significantly high, what to do about it.

“If you get some good lifestyle changes embedded in someone’s daily habits and identify and manage high cholesterol and blood pressure you can restore normal life expectancy.”