A landmark trial aiming to make it easier and more convenient for patients to carry out important health checks and reduce pressure on GPs has been launched in Cornwall.
The trial – which is the first of its kind in England and part of the government’s plans to digitalise the existing NHS Health Check – will see patients complete an online questionnaire, use a kit to take a blood sample at home, and complete a blood pressure check at their local pharmacy or in their GP’s waiting room.
It will apply some of the lessons learned during Covid when people got used to doing tests at home and getting their results online.
The NHS Health Check is a health check-up for adults in England aged 40 to 74. It’s designed to prevent stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of dementia. A total of 15 million people are eligible for free NHS Health Checks in England.
They are currently delivered through face-to-face appointments with GPs, but many parts of the check can be done without a GP, which means freeing up more time for clinicians. Patients also have to take time out of their day to go to the appointment, often at an inconvenience to them, with the new trial aiming to free up time for more urgent GP appointments.
More than 2,000 people from three GP surgeries across Cornwall are being invited to take part in the trial – only those whose results indicate an underlying health condition will be followed-up by their GP.
The results of the trial will help inform the design and development of the new national NHS Digital Health Check.
The government says the checks have the potential to:
prevent 1,600 heart attacks and strokes
prevent 4,000 people a year from developing diabetes
detect 20,000 cases of diabetes or kidney disease each year
avoid at least 650 premature deaths a year
Dr Andy Sant, managing director of NHS Cornwall’s North and East Integrated Care Area said: “Much has been achieved in our county around digital inclusion, and the preventative value of health checks is already proven. So we are delighted that patients in Cornwall are being given the first opportunity to access a digital version through this innovative trial. Amid such sustained pressure upon general practice, this is a welcome and logical progression.
“The associated benefits are wide-reaching, from the convenience and savings for patients, to the positive impact on GP appointments. I hope that everyone who is invited will take up this offer. As well as the personal benefits, they will be helping to inform future advances at national scale.”
The offer of NHS Health Checks has been historically lower in Cornwall than most local authorities in England. During 2019-20 over 13,400 checks were offered and over 6,900 were completed, but in 2021-22 approximately 4,300 were offered and just over 1,900 were completed.
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