Foreword from Professor Kevin Fenton
In the past year, we’ve laid the foundations for a successful NHS Health Check programme. We’ve put in place more rigorous governance and have developed tools to support many aspects of the programme, including standards to improve quality and guidance on data flows. Now it’s time to build on these foundations so that NHS Health Check can fulfil its potential to improve the population’s health. To do that, we need to accelerate the roll-out and the uptake of the programme. Our long-term aspiration is for an uptake across the country of 75% and we’ve set ourselves a short-term ambition, published in Living Well for Longer, to hit 66% by April 2015. Since the transition of the programme to local government, uptake has averaged around 48%. So we acknowledge this is a stretch. But we know it’s achievable because six local authorities delivered offers to at least 16% of people and reported an uptake of at least 66% between April and December of last year. We’re committed to learning from these areas and to sharing their insights, so that we can make this ambition a reality across the country.
How can Public Health England and its partners contribute to this? We’ve identified a number of areas where we believe we can make a difference. I would therefore like to share some of these actions with you, to demonstrate our commitment. First, there’s the refresh of the brand, with a new website and digital services in partnership with NHS Choices. We are also exploring options to include the NHS Health Check data on PHE’s Longer Lives website, to drive greater public scrutiny of the roll-out and uptake data. We think these will be key steps in helping to engage the public and in improving national awareness, which in turn should help to increase uptake.
Second, we’re sharing the evidence on the most effective methods to boost uptake. There’s a lot of local innovation and new ideas being tested: ranging from how to adapt an invitation letter to using social media campaigns. We will be expanding this programme of work by setting up a behavioural insights research network and will be looking to partner with local authorities in developing and evaluating different approaches. You can read about some of this evidence as well as related work from PHE’s behavioural insights team here.
Third, we are currently exploring the development of a peer review improvement programme, which would bring together leaders from across local government, PHE and the NHS to provide practical local support. We will be looking to work with different local authorities to test this programme of support over coming months and will keep you updated via this e-Bulletin and our PHE centres.
We’re committed to improving the programme across its entirety because that’s how we will drive the improved health outcomes we all seek. Supporting a quality offer and driving uptake are both key to this. We also need to work across the system, with NHS and local government colleagues as well as potential providers, to optimise the quality and impact of other key elements of the programme – such as the communication of risk, follow-up and management that may follow an NHS Health Check.
NHS Health Check is this country’s first systematic and integrated strategy to tackle the burden of chronic disease at a population level. We can, and must, ensure its success by increasing the numbers of people receiving it.