August has been a busy month in terms of media interest in the NHS Health Check programme and although some of the comment was critical, it has provided us with an opportunity to be clear on our position on the programme. I can confirm that no new evidence has been presented recently that should change our view that the NHS Health Check programme is an important public health service, which we must continue to implement as a matter of priority.
The recent coverage did illustrate the need to ensure that colleagues are clear the NHS Health Check programme is primarily a health improvement programme, providing an outstanding opportunity to engage with people in discussions about healthy lifestyle before they develop disability or die from causes which are preventable. The programme has been criticised for targeting the worried well, but we are aware of many areas that are successfully targeting those who need it the most. The basic elements in the programme are all based on evidence and underpinned by NICE guidance; what hasn’t been tested is their inclusion in a single comprehensive programme and we will, of course, be evaluating this. We are committed to ensuring that strong scientific rigour is applied to the oversight of this policy and our Expert Scientific and Clinical Advisory Panel will oversee this pledge. Another criticism has been that the programme will lead to overtreatment. Again, NICE guidance is clear about who should be treated and we are not proposing any deviation from this position. What is certain is that urgent action is required to reduce the growing burden of behavioural and physiological risk factors leading to disability, inequalities and premature death; the NHS Health Check provides us with an opportunity to make real inroads to changing this position.
The content of this e-Bulletin illustrates some of the progress being made on the 10 actions listed in our Implementation Review and Action Plan published in July. We will continue to update you on all areas of development and welcome your feedback.
Finally, as this is one of the first programmes of its kind internationally, it is expected that we will receive sceptical commentary from time to time. However, I want you to be assured that Public Health England and key partners continue to be fully supportive of the work you are undertaking and we thank you for all your hard efforts.