NHS Health Check Beneficial? Er No says Research

NHS Health check questioned

The value of the NHS Health Check programme has been called into question by a Cochrane systematic review, which found that such general health check-ups did not result in any reduction in overall mortality or morbidity.

In addition, the analysis of nine randomised trials found no detectable effect on cardiovascular mortality or cancer mortality during a median follow-up of 9 years.

blood pressure being taken
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Discouraged?

Lasse Krogsbøll (The Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark) and colleagues say their findings suggest that initiatives such as the NHS Health Check programme – 5-yearly check-ups introduced in 2009 for everyone aged 40-75 years – should be discouraged.

They believe the poor review could be because doctors already detect high-risk patients in their daily practice. And people who are most at risk may be the least likely to come forward.

They comment that these health checks could lead to overdiagnosis. Patients receive unnecessary treatment for conditions that would not have caused problems.

Krogsbøll said in a press release: “What we’re not saying is that doctors should stop carrying out tests or offering treatment when they suspect there may be a problem. But we do think that public healthcare initiatives that are systematically offering general health checks should be resisted.”

What Instead

Noting that the NHS Health Checks programme focuses on cardiovascular and diabetes risk, the authors say that further research is needed to explore individual components of health screening, as well as to better capture the potential harms.

For more information go to Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012; 10: CD009009

Opinion

If this is the case then I have to question all the health checks that we do. Because we Occupational Health follow NHS advice as providers in the companies we advise.

You might want to read my article about the Easy Bits of Wellbeing which informs this piece too.

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