Public Health England has launched a drive to improve the awareness and coverage of the NHS Health Checks scheme in order to reach its goal of providing them to 15 million patients by 2018/2019.

The Government’s programme is set to be rolled out across the whole of England over the next five years, as part of a target promoted by Jeremy Hunt to ‘save 30,000 lives a year by 2020’. This NHS Health Checks scheme forms part of the new ‘living well for longer policy’.

Public Health England (PHE) estimates that the programme – which involves checking the blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and lifestyle of all people aged 40 to 74 years and will largely be conducted by GPs – will prevent 650 deaths, 1,600 heart attacks and 4,000 cases of diabetes a year.

Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said: “The NHS Health Check programme offers a real opportunity to reduce avoidable deaths and disability, and tackle health inequalities in England.”

Philippa Luscombe, partner in Penningtons’ clinical negligence team, said: “The idea of the NHS Health Check is an excellent one. We see first hand what happens when serious conditions like cancer and kidney failure are not picked up until late in the day and anything that assists in catching things early is to be supported. Hopefully the awareness of this campaign will spread and it will save lives. The concern however is what happens after the Health Check – a number of the cases we see against GPs involve them failing to act on abnormal test results or failing to take a full history which, when combined with only slightly abnormal results, paints a picture of concern. This scheme will only work if GPs take a risk management approach and use the Health Checks to identify things that need investigation.”