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Medical Examinations

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps the Government has taken to widen accessibility of health advice and check-ups for NHS patients. (200978)

[holding answer 28 April 2008]: The Government are committed to improving services, care and advice to national health service patients. As part of that, the general medical services contract requires general practitioner (GP) practices to: invite all newly registered patients for a consultation within six months of registration; provide, on request, a consultation to all patients aged 75 or over who have not had a consultation within the last 12 months and provide, on request, a consultation for patients aged 16 to 74 who have not had a consultation within the last three years.

The Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) rewards practices for inviting patients with long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and mental illness to regular check-ups and for providing advice on health and treatment. QOF also rewards practices for recording blood pressure and smoking status and for treating high blood pressure and supporting patients to quit smoking.

The Government are committed to implementing regular health checks for learning disabled patients and has developed and published a framework to support primary care trusts in commissioning primary care services for people with learning disabilities, including annual health checks.

The NHS LifeChecks programme is currently developing LifeChecks for teenagers, early years and mid-life. Using a straightforward questionnaire approach, the NHS LifeChecks will help users assess their current lifestyle behaviour, provide information on what to change, how to change and assist them in setting behaviour change goals. The NHS LifeChecks will provide information about local services and a way of sharing the results of the questionnaire with health professionals. NHS LifeChecks will be delivered via the NHS Choices website, the public digital information service for the Department and the NHS.

NHS Choices can be found at:

and was launched last year as a digital health information service to provide the public with accessible information about treatments, conditions and well-being. The website includes a complete guide to NHS services together with comparative data about hospital performance. Directories of services including GPs, dentists and hospitals are searchable by postcode to help the public identify appropriate local providers. The service also provides advice on major health topics such as obesity and giving up smoking.

Users can now register with NHS Choices to receive regular health information and advice on topics of their choice.

NHS Direct provides accessible 24/7 telephone, online and digital services providing the public with advice/information about health, health services and self-care.

NHS Connecting for Health is delivering a single electronic health record for life which will improve accessibility to appropriate care, particularly for some hard-to-reach groups. It will also improve the ability to deliver large-scale screening programmes. As part of this service, HealthSpace will provide online secure access for patients to their summary care record. Academic research has also been commissioned into health literacy to better understand what needs to be done to help patients understand their record and access appropriate advice.

NHS Connecting for Health is also supporting the development of telecare and telehealth services, which provide personalised advice and support to patients, and through collaboration with industry and other providers is driving standards for interoperability that will enable greater choice, and support services tailored to a diverse range of personal needs.