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New digital health checks to be rolled out to free up GP time

The government has announced it is rolling out new digital checks with the capacity of delivering one million checks.

The government has announced it is rolling out new digital health checks with the capacity of delivering one million checks and potentially freeing up hundreds of thousands of primary care appointments.

Each digital check could save 20 minutes of NHS time and will be rolled out across England from next spring.

Currently, around 1.3 million health checks are delivered each year, identifying 315,000 people living with obesity and 33,000 cases of hypertension, and preventing over 400 heart attacks and strokes. Commissioned by local authorities and largely delivered through GP surgeries, it can help spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia.

From spring 2024 the new digital check will operate alongside the existing in-person NHS Health Check – and is expected to deliver an additional one million checks over four years, while easing pressure on GP surgeries.

Digital health checks could save lives

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Thousands of heart attacks and strokes could be prevented every year through simple health checks, which would save lives and ease pressure on the NHS.

“This new digital check-up will mean people can do simple tests and get tailored advice from homes while reducing pressure on GP services. This programme is the latest example of how we are using technology to cut waiting times, one of the government’s 5 priorities, improve diagnosis and treatment.”

Patients will be able to access the digital health check via a mobile phone, tablet or computer. They will complete an online questionnaire, enter height, weight and blood pressure measurements, and the results of a blood test.

The results will be available online and direct people to personalised advice to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, as well as advice to stop smoking and weight management support where appropriate. Referrals to GPs will only be made if further tests and treatment are needed – helping to reduce demand on GP services.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Millions of people in England are living with conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol that, if left untreated, significantly increase the risk of a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke.

“This initiative will help to reach more people and encourage them to get their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked so that, where necessary, healthcare professionals can work with them to manage their condition. This could play an important role in helping people live healthier for longer and saving lives in the coming years, while reducing pressure on the NHS.”

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