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NHS Health Checks and the GP Practice

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Prevention is better than cure is a saying that should resonate louder in the primary care environment than anywhere else. There are opportunities in the GP’s surgery for both primary prevention (offering patients advise and support in lifestyle and health options), and secondary prevention (diagnosis and management of illness).

By using preventative techniques, GPs enable people to live longer and healthier lives while reducing the longer-term burden on the NHS. Unsurprisingly, the CQC considers such preventative measures as a key service that GP practices should be offering and supporting. In this regard, the NHS health check program should be central to patient care.

What is the NHS health check programme?

The NHS health check programme aims to reduce occurrences of many of the most common, fatal, and costly diseases in the United Kingdom:

- Heart disease

- Stroke

- Diabetes

- Kidney disease

- Dementia

The propensity to be struck by one of these conditions rises after the age of forty, and with certain lifestyle factors (risks) such as:

- Excess weight

- Smoking 

- Alcohol consumption

People who don’t exhibit any of these risks should be offered a health check once every five years, while those that do smoke, consume excessive alcohol, or are overweight should be monitored more closely. This is where advice to reduce or cease smoking and drinking alcohol, take more exercise, and improve diet should also be given.

Other risk factors include high blood pressure, and existing kidney disease and/or diabetes. For such patients, greater interaction and monitoring by GPs will be required.

Who conducts the NHS health check?

The GP practice should ensure that all its patients between the ages of 40 and 74 have access to the NHS health check programme. The CQC will inspect that this is the case and that the GP practice helps to promote the living of healthier lives. You’ll need to show that your practice:

- Has a system in place for calling and recalling patients for their NHS health checks

- Works in conjunction with external providers where the commissioner (the local authority) has selected the provider

This last point will also provide an indication as to how integrated the practice is with other local healthcare providers - such as community pharmacists – another area that the NHS and CQC want to promote. Remember that in order for the externally provided health check to provide the maximum benefits, the GP practice must have a satisfactory system in place to enable results to be transferred to patient records while maintaining patient confidentiality and clinical follow-up when necessary.

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