Row over free health checks

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WIGAN health chiefs have hit back at claims that free GP health checks are useless.

A review carried out by Danish researchers concluded that visiting a doctor for a general check-up is unlikely to lead to a condition needing treatment being identified, but may cause undue stress.

The researchers that carried out the review, which involved more than 180,000 patients, also say doctors should stop offering such check-ups.

Lead researcher Lasse Krogsboll, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark, said: “A likely explanation is that physicians are doing a good job of preventing illness anyway.

“From the evidence we’ve seen, inviting patients to general health checks is unlikely to be beneficial. We’re not saying that doctors should stop carrying out tests or offering treatment when they suspect that there may be a problem. But we do think that public healthcare initiatives that are systematically offering general health checks should be resisted.”

However, in Wigan, free health checks have become a vital part of fighting health problems which have blighted the borough for decades say health chiefs.

Dr Kate Ardern, executive director for Public Health for the Borough of Wigan, said: “There is overwhelming evidence to support the offer for people over 40 years old to take a free NHS Health Check when invited to do so by their GP as it helps provide confirmation of good health or it helps detect health problems at an early stage. It could save your life and costs you nothing.”

In Wigan and throughout England, people aged 40 to 74 are offered a free health check.

The initiative, launched in 2009, is designed to spot conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes by looking for silent risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Wigan has been one of the pioneers of introducing health checks to combat health problems.

In 2007 NHS Ashton, Leigh & Wigan (ALW) introduced the Find & Treat (F&T) CVD screening programme.

The aim is to offer a 30-minute professional intervention which can lead to the early detection of CVD, diabetes and chronic kidney disease, to initiate treatment when indicated and help the patient instigate the lifestyle changes required.

It has been praised for helping to catch such diseases early and so stopping many premature deaths in the borough.