A government-led review of the NHS Health Check program will investigate providing patients with "personalized interventions" based on where they live, their age and their genetics.
In reviewing the program, the government said it will move away from offering a & # 39; one-size-fits-all & # 39; model and instead offer "an intelligent control" to help improve prevention and treatment of disease.
But critics of the program have said the government will need to provide further details before it is clear whether the new controls will lead to improved uptake of health checks and better outcomes for patients.
The NHS currently offers a standardized health study for anyone aged 40-74 years, designed to spot the early signs of major conditions causing early death, such as stroke, kidney disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
According to the latest NHS data, only 8% of eligible adults chose to have a health check in 2018/2019.
A review of the program, announced in a government statement on August 16, 2019, aims to investigate whether personalized, intelligent health checks that take into account age, risk factors and location "will be beneficial in preventing devastating diseases".
In addition to exploring "ways to increase the uptake of health checks", the consideration will consider offering specific check-ups to people approaching retirement age "to help prevent or delay future care needs". It will also investigate offering online health checks for people at low risk for cardiovascular disease.
Following the announcement, Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board, said it would be important for the public health system to be "adequately funded" to continue delivering the health check program.
"We know that pharmacies can play a key role in personalized computerized health monitoring, including for conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes," she added.
The RPS previously called on the government to provide health checks through community pharmacies in 2018. When asked about the role that the community pharmacy would have in the new health check program, the Department of Health and Social Care said the sector is well positioned to to support the implementation of NHS Health Check.
Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London – who has previously been critical of the effectiveness of the health check program – told Pharmaceutical journal that he is "for a more targeted approach, with the proviso that the new program is based on good evidence of effectiveness".
"The inclusion of the program in the first years was low, and the clinical benefits so far have been modest," he said. "If the program is to be changed, NHS England must ensure that changes are based on sound evidence and that there is a clear plan for evaluation."
He added that the government announcement lacks details. “It is not clear how some parts of the new program will work. We will have to wait for further details to see if this will lead to improved uptake of health checks and better outcomes for patients and the NHS, ”he said.
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the college had questioned the benefits of "blanket health checks", so the move toward a more targeted approach was a "positive step forward".
However, she said there were several issues that needed to be examined in the review, such as the unintended consequences of whole genome DNA testing to see if a patient has a genetic predisposition to certain conditions.
“We have to consider … the enormous ethical and financial consequences of suddenly knowing what health conditions you may be more susceptible to; and patients who are concerned about any health issues identified but of questionable personal impact or where nothing can be done to improve prognosis. "
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, said personal, preventive health care was "mission critical" for the future fit he wanted to build.
He added that the review will "help find data-driven, evidence-based ways to support people to spot, manage and prevent risks to their health through targeted intervention".
Citation: Pharmaceutical journal
DOI: 10.1211 / PJ.2019.20206960