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Selbie defends health checks programme

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Councils must not “walk away” from their new responsibility for NHS health checks despite criticism from GPs that the scheme is a waste of time, the head of Public Health England has said.

In a letter to staff, PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said it had been “interesting” to see Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, describing the checks as “essentially a waste of time” in an interview with the BBC this week.

“This week’s challenge on the NHS Health Check programme was interesting,” he said in the letter.

“It has demonstrated that we have to work harder to get across the message that this is primarily a health improvement programme offering a genuine opportunity to engage people in discussions about healthy lifestyles before they get sick.

“We cannot walk away from such an opportunity to take preventative action in tackling the growing burden of disease.”

In the letter Mr Selbie also said that the scheme’s “basic elements” were “grounded in evidence”, adding that PHE would independently evaluate the health checks’ effectiveness.

The checks, which councils must commission as part of their new public health role, are offered to over-40s and are designed to identify risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol that could lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

But Dr Gerada told the BBC: “There is a wealth of evidence that in well people, people without symptoms, they are essentially a waste of time.”

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