Why is the NHS paying twice for health checks?

Why is the NHS paying for health checks? Or more to the point, why should the NHS pay twice for them?

GPs aren’t very convinced by health checks. They never have been, and to say the least the evidence for their benefit is contested. A BMJ editorial last year concluded “the current study shows that that regular health checks are ineffective” (McAuley D. BMJ 2012; 345: e7775).

However, to the extent that health checks are worth doing, the most effective elements are probably the detection of high blood pressure and counselling to stop smoking. But why include these in NHS health checks as GPs are already paid to do them as part of QOF (the Quality and Outcomes Framework)?

Data from QOF show that blood pressure is already recorded in 88.6% of people over 45 (BP recorded at least once in the past five years for 20,606,175 out of 23,170,219 registered patients), and smoking status is already recorded for 85% of people (39,350,066 out of 46,116,729 registered patients over 15) – data for 2011/2012 from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

So since these things are already being done so effectively by GPs, why do we need to pay for them again? Especially when less than 2% of patients have had a health check.



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