Public health officials say the checks could prevent heart attacks and diabetes
Hundreds of lives could be saved if the NHS and local authorities did more to encourage people to take up free health checks, the health secretary has said.
Jeremy Hunt was highlighting the NHS Health Check programme, which is led by Public Health England (PHE).
A PHE review said checking the blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and lifestyle of people between 40 and 74 could curb diabetes and heart attacks.
Health charities welcomed the move to improve the number of checks.
Before local authorities took over responsibility from Primary Care Trusts for commissioning the checks in April, there was considerable variation in how widely they were offered.
PHE has launched a 10-point plan to help councils provide them to 20% of their eligible local population a year – 15 million people by 2018/19.
And PHE will soon launch a website where it will be possible to show how many health check offers are being made by each local authority.
Mr Hunt said: “Around 15 million people in England are eligible for a free NHS Health Check that could identify serious conditions early and add years to their life.
“I’d like to see all 40-74 year olds taking up this potentially life-saving opportunity. And I’d like to see the NHS and local authorities encouraging people in their area to get involved. We could save 650 lives a year if there was full take-up.
“We are an ageing population and thinking about our health early is vital to living a long and prosperous life.”
The programme is focused on preventing conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
The PHE review said the checks could prevent 1,600 heart attacks and 4,000 cases of diabetes a year.
Director of health and wellbeing for PHE Professor Kevin Fenton said: “We must do more to increase uptake and referral to appropriate risk management services, particularly in those communities at greatest risk, to remove blocks in processes that get in the way and make sure the programme is of consistent high quality across the country.”
The chief executive of Diabetes UK, Barbara Young, said: “We are delighted Public Health England is taking the NHS Health Check programme seriously.
She added: “These conditions can have a devastating effect on people’s lives and the basic fact is that the more people who have an NHS Health Check, the more lives can be saved.”