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Health: Screening

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 16 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) from which budget the funding will be taken for the free universal check-ups for everyone over 40 years of age from April 2009; (226283)

(2) how his Department’s free universal check-ups for everyone over 40 years of age, available from April 2009, will differ from the free consultations with a GP that are available to any patient who has not had one in the last three years;

(3) how his Department plans to advertise to those over the age of 40 years the availability of free universal check-ups from April 2009;

(4) what checks will be included in the free universal check-ups to be made available to everyone over the age of 40 years starting from April 2009;

(5) where the free universal check-ups available to everyone over 40 years of age will be delivered; and how long each check-up will take;

(6) how many free universal check-ups for those over the age of 40 years his Department expects to be given in 2009-10; and what the average cost of each check-up is expected to be;

(7) how frequently people over 40 years of age will be able to receive a free universal check-up after April 2009.

The free universal check up for those aged over 40, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred on 23 September, is the vascular checks programme. This will put in place an integrated, systematic population-wide vascular risk assessment and management programme for those between the ages of 40 and 74. The programme will assess people’s risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. People will be recalled every five years unless they are identified as having a high risk of vascular disease or have previously untreated or undiagnosed existing vascular disease, in which case they will be managed appropriately through primary care.

The vascular check will include a number of well-evidenced tests for vascular disease and diabetes risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol measurement, and Body Mass Index and questions such as age, gender, smoking status, physical activity, and family history. Each person will be given the results of their tests, which will be an individual assessment of their vascular risk, and advice on how to manage it. Following this, appropriate interventions will be offered depending on the individual’s level of risk. We estimate it will take two appointments at about 15 minutes each to complete the check.

The check is designed to be undertaken in a variety of settings to ensure maximum possible take up. For example, it can be undertaken in a general practitioners surgery, a pharmacy or other community settings such as community centres. Primary care trusts (PCTs) will commission this service and in doing so will decide the most appropriate locations in which it should be delivered bearing in mind the local needs and circumstances of their population.

It is difficult to estimate the number of tests that will be undertaken during the first year of implementation in 2009-10 since many PCTs are already running vascular checks type programmes in their areas. Also, implementation of this programme will be phased and so the number of checks carried out in the first year will depend on the pace at which each PCT decides to roll it out. The estimated average cost of a vascular check used in the first phase of the modelling that underpins this programme was in the region of £33.50. This figure may be subject to change as further modelling work is currently underway to refine costings, following a consultation exercise over the summer. The funding to implement this programme will be allocated to PCTs.

The NHS Next Stage Review, “High Quality Care for All”, published on 30 June 2008, announced the introduction of the ‘Reduce Your Risk’ campaign, which will raise awareness of the vascular checks programme and vascular conditions generally. This publication has already been placed in the Library.