Clinician using digital tablet

NHS trial Digital Health Check to ease pressure & harness COVID learnings

The NHS has launched a ground-breaking new trial in Cornwall that is set to enhance the patient experience and reduce pressure on GPs, as the health sector gears up for what could be one of the most challenging winters ever.

The trial is evaluating the effectiveness of digitalising the NHS Health Check, which has the power to help prevent 1,600 heart attacks and strokes, stop 4,000 people from developing diabetes a year, diagnose 20,000 cases of diabetes or kidney disease every year, and avoid at least 650 premature deaths each year.

As part of the trial, patients will complete an online questionnaire, take a blood sample at home, as well as a blood pressure check at their closest pharmacy or GP waiting room.

The trial is looking to harness some of the lessons learnt during COVID-19 and take advantage of the familiarity patients now have with doing some health checks at home after the pandemic.

The NHS Health Check is currently delivered via face-to-face appointments but, given that many parts of the appointment could be done at home, the NHS are now looking to see if they can optimise capacity by freeing up clinicians’ time and giving patients more ownership over their treatment pathway.

Minister for Public Health, Neil O’Brien, said: “Innovation is key to a modern, forward looking National Health Service, and this trial will help us understand what a new digital NHS Health Check could look like in the years to come.

“The health check is crucial in preventing and identifying potentially life-threatening conditions, and this digital version will do just that while making patients’ lives easier and reducing pressure on frontline services.

“During the pandemic people got used to doing tests at home and getting their results online, so this trial is an opportunity for us to apply some of the lessons we learnt during COVID and improve the way we deliver healthcare.

“I urge everyone invited to take part in the trial so we can get the best possible data as we look to roll out a national digital check.”

Over 2,000 people from three GP surgeries in Cornwall have been invited to participate in the trial – the results of which will help inform future design and development routes for the eventual nationalisation of the NHS Digital Health Check.

Dr Andy Sant, managing director of NHS Cornwall’s North and East Integrated Care Area, said: “Much has been achieved in our county around digital inclusion, and the preventative value of health checks is already proven.

“So we are delighted that patients in Cornwall are being given the first opportunity to access a digital version through this innovative trial. Amid such sustained pressure upon general practice, this is a welcome and logical progression.

“The associated benefits are wide-reaching, from the convenience and savings for patients, to the positive impact on GP appointments. I hope that everyone who is invited will take up this offer. As well as the personal benefits, they will be helping to inform future advances at national scale.”

The potential digitalisation of the NHS Health Check is just the latest in a series of innovations the health sector is making in its journey to digital maturity.

In our latest edition of the National Health Executive online magazine, the Clinical Lead for Diabetes in Humber and North Yorkshire, Dr Tom Milligan, detailed how texting is supporting the rapid uptake of the National Diabetes Prevention Programme.

To learn more about how technology is helping the health sector drive forward and set the tone for the future, click here.

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