Five years of NHS Health Checks - have you had yours yet?
County leading way in NHS Health Checks
Just six months ago Marion Evans would be the first to admit she was a little on the heavy side. But it wasn’t until she took up an invitation for a free NHS Health Check that she realised the shocking truth – she was suffering from a silent but deadly killer.
Not only was her blood pressure dangerously high, she was told her BMI made her officially obese. The combined conditions put her at a high risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Marion is fortunate enough to live in Oxfordshire where, since 2013, a total of 95,485 residents have taken up an invitation to have an NHS Health Check - a service funded by Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health team which is celebrating five successful years this month.
The NHS Health Check, which is one of the largest public health prevention programmes in the world, has had impressive results in the county. They are designed to spot early warnings of stroke, kidney and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and dementia.
They are available to anyone aged between the ages of 40 and 74 who has not been diagnosed with a pre-existing cardiovascular condition.
A total of 190,000 invitations were sent out in Oxfordshire, with an average uptake of 50.4% over the last five years. And, according to figures released by Public Health England today, Oxfordshire is second in the South East of England for the percentage of the eligible population to have received a check.
The emphasis now is on getting more people to take up their NHS Health Check invitation, particularly men and those from ethnic minority groups.
Dr Eunan O'Neill, public health consultant at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We’re delighted with the level of engagement and participation from Oxfordshire residents in having their NHS Health Check over the last five years, but we want to see more people taking up their invitation for a check.
“They are a brilliant way for people to get an overview of their general health and a fast, effective method of finding out if there are some simple things they could be doing to improve their long-term health and well-being.”
Who has been helped and how
In five years since the NHS Health Checks have been commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council, it shows that:
- 1,357 people were informed they were Type 2 diabetic – often a dangerous condition that can be controlled and even reversed through diet. Left unchecked it alters your blood sugar levels and can cause serious problems with eyes, heart, nerves and circulation.
- 3,494 people were told they were on the threshold of developing Type 2 diabetes
- 900 people were diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease - a kidney condition where there is usually no symptom. Left unchecked it leads to leg swelling, feeling tired, vomiting, loss of appetite and confusion. Complications may include high blood pressure, bone disease or anaemia
- 26,422 people were given advice about their weight
- 21,173 people were informed they had high blood pressure
- 9,072 people were given smoking cessation advice
- 8,426 people were advised to increase physical activity
- 4,522 people were given advice on lowering alcohol consumption
Take Marion's word for it
For Marion Evans, her NHS Health Check was just the wake-up call she needed. The 55-year-old mum of two from Didcot now feels like a new woman.
Hear Marion's story
Her health check results, feedback and advice prompted her to join a weight loss club, be more active and reduce her caffeine, salt and alcohol intake. Now she’s ditched 22lbs and feels fantastic. She’s also significantly reduced her chances of dying from a preventable condition.
Marion, is now urging others to follow her lead. She explained: “I had no idea that my blood pressure was so dangerously high. I had no symptoms and can see why it’s branded the silent killer. My results scared me.
“I didn’t want to go on medication, so with my doctor’s agreement I attended a 12-week slimming class and changed some of my bad habits. The result is that my blood pressure is now within a healthy range.”
And she added: “Don’t ignore the invite for an NHS Health Check from your doctor’s surgery. It’s quick and simple and nothing to be afraid of.”
What are NHS Health Checks and how to get one
The County Council-funded NHS Health Checks are designed to spot early warnings of stroke, kidney and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and dementia.
They are available to anyone aged between the ages of 40 and 74 who has not already been diagnosed with an existing cardiovascular condition. They don’t cost you a penny and you will be invited to have one oncer every five years. Your GP surgery will automatically send out invitations, but if you haven’t had one contact your surgery and make an appointment.
The check will take around 20 to 30 minutes:
You will be asked some simple questions about your family history, whether or not you smoke and how much alcohol you drink
Your height, weight, sex, ethnicity and age will be recorded
Your blood pressure will be taken
A simple blood test will check your cholesterol level
Your body mass index (BMI) will be calculated. BMI is a measure of whether you're a healthy weight for your height.
Your level of risk of developing a cardiovascular condition (i.e. stroke, kidney and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and dementia) will be calculated
An NHS mini-health check session at the Kassam Stadium recently saw 248 Oxford United supporters have their health assessed.
The awareness-raising exercise carried out by the County Council’s Public Health showed just one in 10 supporters who took the check got a clean bill of health.
Eight in 10 got an ‘amber’ rating and 10 per cent were shown the ‘red card’ - meaning a follow-up GP appointment was strongly advised.
Dr O'Neill said: “You may already know that you should be exercising more, or that you shouldn’t be drinking so much alcohol, or that you understand smoking is putting you at risk of cancers and lung disease.
“By having a health professional giving you frank advice on how to make changes and where you can access help could save your life.”
“A health check means you are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease early on and you will receive expert advice or clinical support to help reduce health risks or manage a condition."
For further information about free NHS Health Checks visit: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/nhshealthcheck