‘Have your free NHS Health Check – mine probably saved my life’ says firefighter Nick

As an ex-Para and an Oxfordshire firefighter, Nick Bourke has always taken pride in keeping fit and being a good role model for his two sons.

When his invite for a free NHS Health Check arrived through his letterbox around his 40th birthday, he thought it would be just another routine test and that he’d get a clean bill of health.

He was wrong.

As a station manager working out of Witney for Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service he was used to having medicals every three years – but they did not include blood tests.

His free NHS Health Check showed he had an exceptional cholesterol reading of 14 putting him at a very high risk of a stroke of heart attack.

Now 46, Nick recalled: “I was absolutely devastated by the news. I never thought I’d get a result like that.”

However, he would have been none-the-wiser if he hadn’t taken up his invite for an NHS Health Check – a service funded by Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health team. They hope other men will follow Nick’s lead.

Nick urged: “Get the test done. Don’t put if off or think you’ve got nothing to worry about. It turns out my high cholesterol reading is due to a genetic condition. I’m just made that way.”

The married dad of two made a few changes to his diet but that only had minimal effect on his cholesterol. Now he takes two types of statins prescribed by his GP and gets regular check-ups at the Churchill Hospital.

“Today my blood cholesterol readings are below 3 – an incredible turnaround and better than most people. I’m no longer at that incredible risk of a heart attack or stroke,” said Nick.

“My results made my colleagues have the test done. And I hope my example will make others reading this to have theirs done too.”

Since 2013, a total of 95,485 Oxfordshire residents have taken up an invitation to have an NHS Health Check.

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 an existing cardiovascular condition.

The NHS Health Check, which is one of the largest public health prevention programmes in the world, has had impressive results in the county.

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, 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 women from ethnic minority groups.

Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Education, 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.”

For more information go to www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/nhshealthcheck