Personalised health checks to be considered in new review

The Health and Social Care Secretary has announced an evidence-based review into the NHS Health Check service.

The checks are currently offered to everyone aged between 40 and 74 to spot the early signs of major conditions that cause early death, including stroke, kidney disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The review will explore how to improve the system, with a focus on offering personalised interventions based on factors such as age, where people live and DNA.

The changes are part of a wider move away from blanket approaches to public health, to an approach that takes personal choices into account.

The new health checks will draw on lessons learned from cancer, for example, which is the most advanced area of personalised medicine in terms of detection and treatment.

The review will also explore:

  • a special check-up for people approaching retirement age to help prevent or delay future care needs
  • increasing the range of advice the checks can offer – for example, prevention of musculoskeletal problems or early action on hearing loss
  • ways to increase the uptake of health checks
  • the digitisation of health checks where appropriate

An intelligent check might target drinking advice at 40 to 49-year-olds, as alcohol use is more common in this age group.

70 to 74-year-olds could be targeted with advice on how to reduce their blood pressure.

Those at low risk of cardiovascular disease may benefit from less frequent, online check-ups.

However, it is recognised that people with mental health problems, who in general find it hard to access standard care and are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, would be unlikely to use digital services.

Over the last 5 years, the NHS Health Check programme has identified over 700,000 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease and it has saved an estimated 500 lives each year. But there is potential for people to benefit even more from a more tailored service.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said “Personalised, preventative healthcare is mission critical to the future-fit healthcare service we want to build. We must harness the latest technology and techniques to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach of the past.”

“The review we are announcing today will be an important step towards achieving that, helping us to find data-led, evidenced-based ways to support people to spot, manage and prevent risks to their health through targeted intervention.”