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Nearly half a million missing out on 'vital' health checks in Surrey and Hampshire

Nearly half a million missing out on 'vital' health checks in Surrey and Hampshire

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 10:29am 10th September 2019.

Latest figures show 490,400 eligible adults in Surrey and Hampshire have not had an NHS health check over the past five years.

The checks are for those aged between 40 and 79 - and should be issued by the local authority every five years.

They are designed to spot risk factors and early symptoms of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.

Public Health England estimates that there are 355,970 people in Surrey who were eligible for the check in the five years to June 2019.

However, figures from the health body show just 28% of them were sent an invite by the council during that time - meaning 254,600 people missed out.

In Hampshire,  418,100 people in Hampshire were eligible during the same period, but only 43.6% attended an appointment during the five years - while 235,800 went without.

The figures for Hampshire also show at least 58,600 of them were never sent an invite in the first place.

Some councils double-counted the residents they sent invites to, meaning the proportion actually offered an appointment could be even lower.

Nikki Joule, policy manager at Diabetes UK, said the figures were "extremely concerning:"

"Local authorities have a legal duty to offer a health check to everyone who is eligible, but this clearly isn’t happening," she said.

"If left undiagnosed, diabetes can lead to sight loss, amputations, stroke and kidney failure.

"Government urgently needs to invest more money in the depleted public health grant to allow local authorities to reach more people at risk."

Davinia Green, head of prevention at the Stroke Association, added: 

"When stroke strikes, lives change in an instant.

"It is important that people know their risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation, blood pressure and cholesterol - three big risk factors for stroke that the NHS health checks look for."

Not everybody is eligible for a health check - those with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions or known risk factors won't be invited as they are already receiving treatment.

In Hampshire, the take-up rate fell in 2018.  Of the people invited for a test between April and June last year, 50% took up the offer, compared to 52.1% the previous year. 

The rate was at its highest in 2015-16, when it was 53.3%.

In Surrey, the take-up rate rose -  60.5% took up the offer between April and June 2018, compared to 50.5% the previous year. 

The rate was at its highest in 2014-15, when it was 80%.

Councils are legally required to try to improve the uptake rate each year.

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said councils wanted to do more to improve uptake, particularly among high risk groups, but warned more money was needed:

"Every pound invested by government in council-run services can relieve pressure on other essential services like the NHS and save much more money further down the line."

Jamie Waterall, national lead for the NHS Health Check at Public Health England, said:

"The number of people attending an NHS Health Check during the first quarter of this year is up 10% on the same period last year - the highest since 2015-16.

"The check is quick and easy, providing a world-leading prevention programme, and years of ill health and thousands of lives may have been saved."

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