New proposals mean that everyone aged between 40 and 72 will have to be offered a regular free ‘health MOT’ by their local authority, in a bid to save hundreds of lives every year.
At present, health MOTs are supposed to be offered by Primary Care Trusts, but provision is sporadic and some areas do not deliver them at all.
Blood pressure checks are an important part of health MOTs
A report last week by charity Heart UK found that nine PCTs failed to provide a single check this year. It also showed that out of the 16 million eligible Brits, only 43,000 underwent a health MOT.
But as part of the Department of Health’s public health proposals, from April 2013 it will be the responsibility of local authorities to ensure that people over the age of 40 are offered the checks every 5 years.
The check-ups will be carried out by GPs and nurses, who will measure patients' blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight and height, and question them about their diet and lifestyle.
The information will help to establish whether they are at increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, or diabetes.
At-risk patients will be given advice on how to improve their lifestyles, and some may be put on statins to reduce their cholesterol.
A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation said: "We would welcome better support for these health checks to be provided and anything that increases this roll-out is a very positive thing.
"They are a good way of setting out a person's risk of certain illnesses while they have still got the chance to do something about it."
If you can’t access a health MOT through the NHS you have the option of paying to have one done privately or through your private medical insurance policy.
Laura Kerby, Managing Director for Consumer Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, said: "We welcome the Department of Health’s decision to ensure all those over 40 can benefit from a health MOT to screen for heart disease or stroke risk as well as other vascular diseases."
"At Nuffield Health we have long understood the value of health MOTs, which is why every person - irrespective of age - is entitled to one when they join one of our fitness & wellbeing centres. We believe people can make a significant difference to their health at all ages if they understand their own personal risk areas.”
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