UK Helps Reduce Diseases By Preventative Checks

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NHS Health Checks, which could prevent 1600 heart attacks and strokes each year and help save 650 lives will begin from April this year, announced Health Secretary Alan Johnson today.

Everyone aged between 40-74 in England will begin to be invited for a free health check as part of a national programme to identify their risk of diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. The programme is an essential tool in tackling health inequalities across the country.

The checks are part of a drive to ensure that people from this age group have the necessary information about their health in order to make important lifestyle changes and reduce their risks of developing diseases like diabetes and coronary heart disease, which currently affect the lives of 4 million people in England and are responsible for a fifth of all hospital admissions.

The checks are part of the drive towards a more preventative NHS.

The NHS Health Check will consist of:

* Straightforward questions to patients on their health and diet, exercise habits and family medical history

* Height and weight measurements taken from patients

* A simple blood test for cholesterol and in some cases for glucose levels

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* A follow up, personal assessment setting out the individual's level of risk and what they can do to reduce this

* Recommendations of what could be done to reduce risk including: weight management programmes, stop smoking, physical activity programmes

Local Primary Care Trusts are designing their own local implementation plans to make sure that they can deliver the checks and follow up services that will be best suit the needs of the local population.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "The NHS is becoming more personal and responsive to individual needs; becoming as good at prevention and keeping people healthy as it is at providing care and cures; and able to offer the information and support people need to make healthy choices.

"There are a number of different commitments that we are delivering on which will start from this April. The national programme of Health Checks could save 650 lives a year and help to reduce health inequalities.

"Screening of all relevant elective patients for MRSA before admission is an additional preventative measure that will help to continue the downward spiral of healthcare associated infections. Free prescriptions for people living with cancer and related conditions is one less worry and will be welcomed by patients and their families."

The preventative checks will be rolled out across England from April and will be fully implemented by 2012/13. They are likely to be available at GP surgeries, health centres, walk in centres and pharmacies to ensure as many people benefit from them as possible.

The number of people getting infections from MRSA is falling, but we are not complacent. As part of our continued efforts to reduce numbers in even further, all NHS Trusts will be offering MRSA screening to all relevant elective patients from 1 April. This will allow the NHS to reduce the chances of patients getting an MRSA infection, or passing MRSA onto another patient. .

The abolition of NHS prescription charges for everyone undergoing treatment for cancer, the effects of cancer, or the effects of cancer treatment, also came in to effect on April 1. Up to 150,000 patients already diagnosed with cancer are expected to benefit, saving them ?100 or more each year in prescription charges.

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