New health checks could save 2,000 lives a yearPeople aged 40 to 74 to get heart and stroke check

02 April 2008

A doctor speaking to a patient

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People aged 40 to 74 will be offered health checks under government plans aimed at saving 2,000 lives a year in England.

Three million men and women could be screened every year for major conditions as part of the scheme, estimated to cost £250m annually.

A 'vascular check-up' to detect risk of heart disease and stroke will be offered, with patients undergoing further tests for diabetes and kidney disease if they are thought to be at risk of those conditions.

Tests at GP surgeries

GP practices, community health centres and pharmacies are all likely to offer the tests, which will be rolled out from 2009/10.

Health charities welcomed the move saying it shifted attention to prevention rather than cure.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he believed the scheme represented 'the future of the health service'.

Burden

But the plans came in for criticism from family doctors who said the burden on them would be far higher than the government suggested.

Everyone aged 40 to 74 will be entitled to the checks, which are based on factors like age, sex, family history of disease, height, weight and blood pressure.

A blood test to measure cholesterol will also be included.

Personal report

Patients will receive a personal report setting out their risk of developing disease and practical things they can do to reduce it.

For those at low risk, this may just mean general advice on how best to stay healthy through diet and exercise.

But people who are overweight or obese may be referred to weight management programmes, while smokers will be helped to quit.

Blood pressure

High-risk patients could be given the cholesterol-busting drugs, statins, or treatment to lower their blood pressure.

The check-ups will be repeated every five years but it is not yet clear which age group or at-risk group will be screened first.

Mr Johnson said the target was for 3 million people to be screened every year. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are currently 19.23 million men and women in England aged 40 to 74.

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