Foreword by Professor Kevin Fenton
As we enter the summer months, we have an opportunity to reflect on the most recent quarterly data from NHS Health Checks implementation which confirm that for the period quarter 4 2012/13 health checks were offered to 2.6m (16.5%) people out of 15.6m with a response rate of approximately 49%. National coverage of the programme has increased greatly with all local authorities now responsible for commissioning and delivering the programme. This is encouraging news of our progress with scale up, but we know that there remains marked geographic variation nationally, within local authorities, and across key demographic subgroups. This is to be expected in the early phase of programme roll-out, and these data provide a picture of where we are and how we will need to work together to continue refining the offer and uptake of the programme. The scale up any large-scale population based prevention programme is a complex undertaking, requiring time, training, monitoring and on-going support. The data suggest that public health teams across the country are making progress, and we look forward to working with and alongside colleagues across the health and care system to accelerate our efforts and impact.
Many of you are aware of the Secretary of State for Health’s commitment to reducing premature mortality and hopefully you have had a chance to review his call to action in Living Well for Longer: a Call to Action to Reduce Avoidable Premature Mortality. More recently PHE published our Longer Lives website – a resource that highlights premature mortality across every locality in and gives people important information to improve their community’s health. It is clear that NHS Health Checks will be an important programme that all local authorities now have to take further action to reduce premature mortality. The comprehensive nature of the programme with its focus on early risk assessment, early intervention and referral to effective risk management services can complement other locally delivered prevention and early intervention programmes. Another added advantage is our ability to engage communities that are especially disadvantaged and there are many fantastic examples of where local partnerships are resulting in better targeting and engagement of those at risk.
Finally, you may have noticed we have not yet published the final version of the NHS Health Check implementation review and action plan. We have deferred this by a few weeks as we work with NHS England, NICE and the LGA to concurrently release a supporting statement summarising the evidence that underpins the programme, and our joint commitment, to continue building the evidence base as we implement the programme. PHE is especially committed to ensuring that we promote effective monitoring, evaluation, and research alongside the programme roll-out since implementation science is important to our scientific leadership role public health. In the meantime we are pressing on with other work to support the programme. I particularly flag the request from Dr Tim Chadborn for information to guide our work to develop and test how behavioural insights can be used to increase uptake and increase effectiveness of NHS Health Checks. We are particularly interested in how we communicate risk in ways that people can understand and that will lead to positive behaviour change.