Everyone over 40 will be offered a free health MoT in a bid to save hundreds of lives a yearTests will be carried out by councils
Life-saving: People aged between 40 and 72 will be eligible for a free check-up every five years under Department of Health plans
Everyone aged between 40 and 72 will have to be offered a regular free ‘health MoT’ by their local authority under proposals designed to save hundreds of lives every year.
Councils will be obliged to invite all those in that age group for a check-up every five years to find out whether they are at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The check-ups will be carried out by GPs and nurses who will measure blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight and height and ask questions about patients’ diet and lifestyle.
From this information they can establish whether someone is at high risk of a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease or diabetes.
At present the checks are meant to be offered by primary care trusts, but provision is very patchy and some areas do not provide them at all.
As part of the Department of Health’s public health proposals, from April 2013 local authorities will be given responsibility for ensuring that the over-40s are offered the checks.
Patients will be able to book an appointment with their GP or nurse who will then offer advice on how to improve their lifestyle depending on the results of the tests.
They will be put into one of three groups – low risk, medium risk and high risk.
Those in the high risk group may be put on statins to reduce their cholesterol or encouraged to go on a diet.
There are no plans to increase the pay of GPs for carrying out these checks. They were brought in by Labour in 2009 but many primary care trusts are not bothering to offer them to patients.
Crucial: The check-ups, which will be carried out by councils, will measure blood pressure, cholesterol levels as well as looking at diet and lifestyle
Last week a report by the charity Heart UK found that nine trusts have not carried out a single ‘health MoT’ so far this year. Only 43,000 Britons have ever had the check out of the 16million who would be eligible.
The charity warned that the programme was ‘under threat’ and was not being ‘implemented uniformly’.
A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation said: ‘We would welcome better support for these health checks to be provided and anything that increases this roll-out is a very positive thing.
‘They are a good way of setting out a person’s risk of certain illnesses while they have still got the chance to do something about it.
‘We would ask anyone who is eligible to contact their local GP to ask to have a health check.’
Ministers want councils to be responsible for improving and protecting the public’s health, rather than local NHS trusts.
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They will run a range of services to help tackle obesity, encourage awareness about cancer and ensure there are adequate sexual health clinics.
Currently this role is carried out by primary care trusts and strategic health authorities, but these are set to be abolished as part of the health reforms.
It is estimated that even if half the 16million adults aged 40 to 72 were made aware of possible health risks, there would be a huge reduction in mortality and the NHS would save millions of pounds.
Ministers have calculated that 650 lives could be spared every year.
Doctors’ groups have previously warned that if the tests are used properly there will need to be a significant expansion in staff numbers and equipment.
And if they prove successful, many more people will need surgery, pushing the bill up further.
Experts have also warned that the tests may give people a false sense of security about their health – with patients reluctant to go for further checks later on even if they develop symptoms.
Other patients may be told of problems that will never do them any harm, leading to unnecessary fears.