Health MOTs are a concern, says Which?Investigation reveals poor value and information

24 July 2009

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Private health checks or ‘MOTs’ can be poor value for money and could even be bad for people’s health, according to an investigation by Which?

Which? researchers made undercover visits to six healthcare companies and found that the risks involved with health MOTs - such as the possibility of further tests which could be painful or risky, and potential false alarms - were not always explained.

Private health checks

One researcher was given conflicting advice about his risk of heart disease, despite getting almost identical test results. BMI Healthcare said he had a greater risk than average for his age and should take immediate action, Nuffield Health said his risk was in line with expectations for his age, and Bupa said his risk was much better than average for his age.

Three in ten people surveyed by Which? said they would consider having a health MOT, and the main reason people gave was to put their mind at ease. But Which?’s expert panel said a health MOT could give false reassurance, create unnecessary worry, and could be positively dangerous if it included an unnecessary CT scan. Test results could also lead to higher insurance premiums.

The average cost of the MOTs sampled by Which? was £423, but a private health MOT can cost anywhere between £125 and £2,000. People in the UK spend an estimated £100m on health MOTs each year.

Which? view on health MOTs

Martyn Hocking, editor, Which? magazine, says: 'Health MOTs often cater for the ‘worried well’ who want the reassurance of a clean bill of health, but they can cost hundreds of pounds for what sometimes amounts to little more than lifestyle and dietary advice. 

'That might seem harmless, but a false sense of reassurance is potentially risky, and if the tests flag issues that turn out to be false alarms you could actually end up with unnecessary worry, rather than the peace of mind you signed up for.'

Which? advises people who are considering a health MOT to check what information, tests or screening are available from their GP first, and to see their GP if they have symptoms. People who decide to go ahead with a health MOT should be aware of the benefits and the possible risks, and check that the provider is registered with a regulator.

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