Many people over 40 are not getting the routine heart health checks they are entitled to, figures suggest.
GPs in England should be offering yearly health MOTs to 20 per cent of their patients aged 40-74 to spot conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
This 20 per cent target became mandatory in April 2012, and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were given three years to prepare for it.
GP magazine recently sent Freedom of Information Act requests to all 151 PCTs in England asking how many had met this aspirational target in 2011-12.
But according to the 118 PCTs who responded, around two-thirds (64%) did not provide enough NHS health checks to meet the target that year.
In addition, three PCTs did not provide a single health check in 2011-12. A spokeswoman for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, which did not provide any checks, said the programme is not prioritised, "owing to other pressures".
Jules Payne, chief executive of Heart UK, commented:
"This has all the classic ingredients of health inequalities and a postcode lottery for accessing services.”
A fifth (21%) of those questioned also admitted that they would fail to meet the compulsory target in 2012-13, meaning millions of patients will once again miss out.
Jules Payne added: "The study's finding of declining patient uptake may suggest problems with the way in which health checks are being offered. PCTs should be asking themselves questions about how and where health checks are being promoted and explained to their patients.
"We'd like to see a broader range of sites and opportunities to encourage all eligible people to take up their health check, and not just the 'worried well'."
PCTs will be abolished from next year because of the controversial NHS reforms, and the responsibility for providing these health checks will fall to local authorities.
© ActiveQuote Health Ltd. 2012