Government to roll out digital health check to tackle cardiovascular disease

A digital NHS Health Check that aims to deliver one million checks is to be rolled out across England from next spring, the government has announced.

The current NHS Health Check currently takes the form of a face to face check-up for adults in England aged 40 to 74. Commissioned by local authorities and largely delivered through GP surgeries, it can help spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia.

selective focus photography of heart organ illustration

Around 1.3m health checks are delivered each year, identifying 315,000 people living with obesity and 33,000 cases of hypertension, and preventing over 400 heart attacks and strokes.

From spring 2024 the new digital check will operate alongside the existing in-person NHS Health Check – and is expected to deliver an additional one million checks over four years while easing pressure on GP surgeries.

Health and social care secretary, Steve Barclay, said: ‘Thousands of heart attacks and strokes could be prevented every year through simple health checks, which would save lives and ease pressure on the NHS.

‘This new digital check-up will mean people can do simple tests and get tailored advice from homes while reducing pressure on GP services.

‘This programme is the latest example of how we are using technology to cut waiting times, one of the government’s five priorities, improve diagnosis and treatment.’

Cardiovascular disease is the second biggest killer in England and affects around 6.4m people. The new digital check aims to help identify 200,000 people who could benefit from the use of statins, 30,000 cases of hypertension – persistently high blood pressure – and prevent around 400 heart attacks and strokes over the first four years.

Patients will be able to access the digital health check via a mobile phone, tablet or computer. They will complete an online questionnaire, enter height, weight and blood pressure measurements, and the results of a blood test.

The results will be available online and direct people to personalised advice to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, as well as advice to stop smoking and weight management support where appropriate. Referrals to GPs will only be made if further tests and treatment are needed – helping to reduce demand on GP services.

The results from the NHS Digital Health Check trial in Cornwall will inform next spring’s rollout.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Millions of people in England are living with conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol that, if left untreated, significantly increase the risk of a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke.

‘This initiative will help to reach more people and encourage them to get their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked so that, where necessary, healthcare professionals can work with them to manage their condition.

‘This could play an important role in helping people live healthier for longer and saving lives in the coming years, while reducing pressure on the NHS.’

Image: jesse orrico


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