NHS nears launch of £17m digital health check service for over-40s

Trials began in 2022 of remote version of check-up for over 40s, with full version – developed at multimillion-pound cost – due to launch in coming weeks, according to minister

After millions of pounds spent and more than a year of planning and development, the NHS is preparing the nationwide launch of a new digital version of the health check up offered to citizens after their 40th birthday.

The NHS Health Check is available to everyone in England aged between 40 and 74 – which equates to 15 million people across the country. The process typically involves an appointment with a GP in which patients are assessed for any risks related to strokes, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of dementia.

In late 2022, the health service undertook a pilot of a digital version of the check-up which is designed to be completed largely remotely. The digital process includes an online questionnaire and a kit sent to patients’ homes, which allows them to take their own blood sample. The check can be completed by taking a blood pressure reading at a pharmacy or in a GP surgery waiting room.

Ministers announced in June that the digital health check would be rolled out at scale this year. The introduction of the online and self-service option is forecast to support the completion of an extra 250,000 checks annually, with each person that chooses the digital option enabling the NHS to save about 20 minutes.

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Secondary minister Andrew Stephenson said that the digital check is still on track to launch this spring. In answer to a written parliamentary question from fellow Conservative MP Sir John Hayes, the minister revealed that, since the trials began 15 months ago, millions of pounds have been spent on developing the new digital check.

“We are investing in new delivery models for the NHS Health Check, including nearly £17m for the development and rollout of an innovative new national digital NHS Health Check available this spring, and will give people a choice about where and when to have a check,” he said.

The minister was asked by Hayes about the potential for government to enable “community pharmacists to have a bigger role in diagnosis of chronic kidney disease”.

In his response, Stephenson cited the key role of the check-up programme for over-40s in detecting kidney disease.

“In addition to evidence-based guidance to support clinicians to diagnose problems of the kidney, we are also working to detect people at risk of kidney disease through the NHS Health Check programme,” he said. “The programme, which is available for everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 years old who are not already on a chronic disease register, assesses people’s health and risk of developing certain health problems. Using this information, patients are supported to make behavioural changes and access treatment which helps to prevent and detect kidney disease earlier.”

Sam Trendall

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