Health Service Focus

22.10.19

Prevention, public health and primary care

Source: NHE: Sep/Oct 19

With the Government making sweeping changes to NHS health checks, Jo Churchill, the newly appointed minister for prevention, public health and primary care, looks towards a more predictive and preventative health service.

This is an exciting time to be a health minister in this government. That statement may surprise many of you, given the continuing twists, turns and distractions in Westminster, but I stand by it. 

Why? As the minister now overseeing prevention, primary care and public health policy, I know these areas of health and care are among the most critical elements in our efforts to deliver better services, healthier populations and happier lives. 

My brief is about much more than pills, potions and lotions, it’s also about the way we protect, sustain and prolong good health – through education, better lifestyle choices, and improvements in the environments we live, learn and work in. It is a privilege to now be playing my part in this grand enterprise. 

These are also the areas that stand to benefit the most from the latest advances in health technology and cutting-edge analytics, spurring what I believe is an unstoppable shift towards predictive prevention – a shift that will shape health and care services around the needs of the individual, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. 

The proposed changes to our well-established and highly regarded NHS Health Checks are a case in point. Since their inception, this free service offered by GP surgeries, pharmacies and other authorised providers in England has been assessing health risks, raising awareness and identifying the early signs of a range of preventable conditions. These include common risk factors such as high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Clinicians have been using these diagnostic red flags to prevent, treat or mitigate the onset of serious health conditions for many thousands of patients. 

There is now an opportunity to make these highly effective checks even more targeted and relevant to the specific health needs and concerns of local populations, making the most of advances in health tech, medical and behavioural science to pinpoint particular demographics and the health risks they present. 

That’s why we’ve announced an evidence review to explore the provision of bespoke, personalised NHS Health Checks. We want to take them to the next level where age, location, risk factors and lifestyle preferences are all carefully considered. 

The review will explore how a more predictive system that is data-led and could offer checks based on a range of different factors can encourage more people to take a preventative approach to their own health. 

Of course, it makes sense to start thinking about protecting and prolonging our good health much earlier in life. Currently, health checks are offered on a standard basis to everyone over the age of 40, up to 74. The closer to 40 the better of course – much like pension planning, we wouldn’t be advised to start saving for retirement at 64.

 iStock-185000832

This is about convincing people their health really matters. If they act early and maintain healthier lifestyles, they will enjoy a huge lifetime benefit in reducing their risk of, among other things, heart disease. By successfully harnessing the latest technology, techniques and data, we will be able to move away from standardised health checks towards tailored programmes that are even more effective in preventing the most devastating diseases of our time. 

We’re not side-lining health professionals in favour of algorithms, AI and automata either. This is about helping them deliver care at its most personal – and human. 

For example, an intelligent check might target more bespoke drinking advice at 40 to 49-year-olds, as alcohol use is more common in this age group. Health professionals are already well aware of these higher risk groups, but a targeted assessment would help them identify and target their interventions more keenly. 

Similarly, those at low risk of cardiovascular disease may also benefit from less frequent, online check-ups, while people with mental health problems, who in general find it harder to access standard care and are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, would be unlikely to use digital services, and so we can adapt our approach. 

These changes - if successfully adopted - could form part of a wider, societal shift, as clinicians, commissioners and educators embrace the concept of a modernised, personalised and future-proofed system that takes risk and personal choices into account. 

This is all very much in the spirit of the NHS Long Term Plan, which commits the health service to preventing 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases over the next 10 years. 

Indeed, over a five-year period, we expect the NHS Health Check programme to identify over 700,000 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease and save an estimated 500 lives each year. But there is clearly huge potential for people to benefit even more from a more bespoke service. 

More than 14 million people, 90% of the eligible population, have been offered an NHS Health Check in the last five years and almost seven million have taken up the offer. If we can use the review to find ways to boost the uptake of a more personalised service, we can save and transform many more lives.

 As I’ve already suggested, tailored, targeted NHS Health Checks offering more personalised interventions based on risk, location and predisposition to diseases could be the way to do this – even to the point of specific checks for particular age groups. Again, this is not about taking these assessments out of surgeries and into cyberspace but enhancing an already highly effective service with health professionals at its heart. 

In the meantime, these health checks remain a world-leading early warning system, helping our amazingly dedicated health and care professionals deliver timely, effective, preventative care to thousands of people across the country. 

What we are now proposing will help future-proof the system to keep pace with the increasingly complex health and care needs of an ageing, growing and diversifying population. Effective management of the nation’s health should be a reassuring constant, not a worrisome unknown.

For more information

Tw: @Jochurchill4

W: www.healthcheck.nhs.uk

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

1.4 million British adults using ‘street cannabis’ to treat chronic health conditions

11/11/20191.4 million British adults using ‘street cannabis’ to treat chronic health conditions

The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis has today (Nov 11th) welcomed the new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines relating to ... more >
Increasing awareness of HIV in the over 50s

08/11/2019Increasing awareness of HIV in the over 50s

Bath and North East Somerset’s Public Health team is supporting AgeUK’s campaign to raise awareness of the rising rate of HIV in the ... more >
RCM Scotland are calling for more advanced perinatal mental health training

08/11/2019RCM Scotland are calling for more advanced perinatal mental health training

Scottish midwives are calling for more advanced training, specifically around perinatal mental health (PMH) to improve support they can give to p... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us th... more > more last word articles >

681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Providers are delivering – and here’s how

09/10/2019Providers are delivering – and here’s how

It has been a challenging few years for healthcare providers, yet they have continued to deliver high quality care despite the conditions. Adam Brimelow, director of communications at NHS Providers, outlines just how providers are managing to deliver despite the financial squeeze.   It is inevitable that the NHS’ funding settlement and the Long Term Plan will heighten expectations of what the health service can be ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

comment

NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental health and wellbeing. As the best rugby players in the world repr... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

13/06/2019Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

Nurses have been named as the most under-appreciated public sector professionals as new research reveals how shockingly under-vauled our NHS, edu... more >
Helpforce to launch training programmes for NHS volunteers

10/06/2019Helpforce to launch training programmes for NHS volunteers

Kay Fawcett OBE, clinical advisor and education lead at Helpforce, and Lynn Twinn, talent development consultant, outline the new national traini... more >
Creating the Cardigan integrated care centre

10/06/2019Creating the Cardigan integrated care centre

Peter Skitt, county director and commissioner for Ceredigion Hywel Dda University Health Board, looks ahead to the new integrated care centre bei... more >

interviews

Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

24/10/2019Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

Today, speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) annual conference, Matt Hancock highlighted what he believes to be the three... more >
NHS dreams come true for Teesside domestic

17/09/2019NHS dreams come true for Teesside domestic

Over 20 years ago, a Teesside hospital cleaner put down her mop and took steps towards her midwifery dreams. Lisa Payne has been delivering ... more >
How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >