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Doctors warned of poor health MOT results

Monday 9th May 2016
UK doctors are being warned that health MOTs may not be as beneficial as originally thought. Image: dolgachov via iStock
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People aged 40 and above living in the UK are entitled to a free health MOT from their doctor to look for signs of potential diseases, but new research has revealed that the number of illnesses and deaths these check-ups prevent are not as high as previously believed.

This is according to a study carried out at Imperial College London with funding from the Department of Health, which found that just one life is typically saved for every 5,000 health MOTs that take place.

A team of doctors looked at the benefits of these check-ups for 138,788 people who received them between 2009 and 2013 to reach this conclusion.

The health MOTs did lead to some issues being flagged up, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and high BMI scores. However, on average, people's risk of developing cardiovascular disease was only reduced by 0.21 per cent over a ten-year period. This equated to just one life being saved for every 4,762 health MOT recipients.

Kiara Chang, lead author of the study, commented: "Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death across the world, and so we urgently need effective initiatives to tackle the condition. However, these findings suggest the NHS health check scheme offers very modest benefits."

What's more, uptake of the check-ups was found to be poor, with under one-quarter (21 per cent) of those who were eligible for the free test taking up the offer. Meanwhile, just 40 per cent of patients deemed to be at a high risk of developing heart disease were prescribed statins, missing the NHS target.

Ms Chang explained: "The Department of Health suggests 85 per cent uptake of statins is required for the NHS health check programme to be cost-effective."

As a result of these findings, doctors may be required to use their time and resources to focus on other priorities, such as screening for diseases, or on encouraging greater uptake of the health MOTs in a bid to improve the results achieved.

Written by James Puckle

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