3 December 2013
The NHS Health Check
The NHS Health Check was introduced in 2009 but has only gradually impinged on the consciousness of everybody. It was originally basically a cardiovascular risk check and some people still refer to it as such but there is now much more to it that just heart disease and stroke. Monitoring for diabetes, dementia and excess alcohol consumption are also now part of the check and the government may well add more conditions as well.
There are several strange things about the NHS Health Check. Perhaps the most important is that the organisation is the responsibility of Public Health England (PHE), not NHS England. Likewise at a local level, implementation of Health Checks is not the responsibility of the Clinical Commissioning Group but of the Local Authority who may or may not require Primary Care Centres to carry out these checks. Although it must be said that, if any other body carries out the checks, it would add another level of administration to transmit any positive findings to those who will be managing them.
Public Health England are taking their responsibilities very seriously and have set up a special group to oversee the NHS Health Checks under the Chairmanship of Jamie Waterall who has a background in nursing. They are looking at producing competencies for the NHS Health Check and already producing a regular e-bulletin which is available for download free of charge.
There is, however, one major problem in that the Committee have no control at all over who actually does the Check. Nor have they produced guidelines on this important topic because they have no authority to do so. The tests could, in theory (and, if the stories are true also in practice) be performed by totally untrained personnel who may be able to perform the test but is quite unable to interpret the result.
The Primary Care Training Centre has developed a course entitled “Delivering the NHS Health Check”. Like many of our courses, it combines face-to-face teaching with distance learning. It aims to give practical instruction on the rationale of the Check along with guidance on carrying out the checks and the interpretation of the results. It is currently going through the accreditation process with Teesside University and we have had a very fruitful meeting with Jamie Waterall and his colleagues at Public Health England in London. It is hoped that the course will be available for students in the new year.