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Implementation of the NHS Health Checks programme

National Health Service Health Checks is a population-wide primary prevention programme for cardiovascular disease in England. The Department of Health began to implement the programme nationally in April 2009. The programme is delivered locally by primary health care teams and involves offering a ‘health check’ to all persons aged 40–74 years without diagnosed cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The health check includes measurement of body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, smoking status and lipid levels.

A recent paper published in the journal Family Practice examined the current level of risk factor recording in one part of London and how this varied with patient characteristics. The study also sought to quantify the likely workload for primary care teams in England of the new Health Checks programme. The study found that the recording of smoking status and blood pressure was very high in the electronic medical records of people without existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The recording of BMI and cholesterol was considerably lower. Ethnicity recording was highly variable and was very low in some practices.

The authors concluded that the workload implications of the NHS Health Checks programme for general practices in England are substantial. Further research will evaluate the uptake of the programme amongst people invited to determine if the expected benefits of the programme will be realised.

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