LESS than half the candidates in Rotherham eligible for a free health MOT have taken up the offer.
NHS Health Checks are open to everyone aged between 40 and 74 and aim to prevent premature death from heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes.
But the Government is now reviewing the “one size fits all” screenings.
NHS chief executive Duncan Selbie disputed media reports they were being scrapped, insisting the review was designed to increase the take-up rate.
But it has been suggested the face-to-face checks could be replaced by a “smarter” system incorporating technology.
Research published this week found that 81 per cent of 78,172 eligible people in Rotherham were offered a free screening between 2014 and 2019.
Just 38 per cent (29,764) of the total took up the offer, meaning 44 per cent of those invited to see a GP had their check.
In the same period, 88 per cent of the eligible population in Bolton and 93 per cent in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham received a health check.
The lowest rate was in the East Riding of Yorkshire, where just 14 per cent had been screened.
Dr Johnson D’souza, medical director and GP at Medicspot, which conducted the research, said it was “very worrying” there had been such a low take-up in areas such as Rotherham.
“People aged 40 to 74 who don’t get a health check every five years are at an increased risk of undetected cardiovascular disease,” he said.
“By checking your blood pressure, lifestyle, family history, height and weight, we can get an idea of your risk of getting certain illnesses including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“It is very worrying that only 38 per cent of people who were eligible for a free NHS Health Check in Rotherham took up the offer.”
NHS researchers revealed in June that over a six-year period, participants of the health check programme had lost weight, lowered blood pressure and fewer were smokers.
But NHS medical director Prof Stephen Powis said: “The time is right to take a look at whether NHS Health Checks could be targeted differently.
“Taking a smarter, data-driven approach has potential both to give people the tools they need to improve and manage their own health, and to focus the time and expertise of NHS staff on those who need them most.”
No details have been given of what the checks will be replaced with and they are still available for the time being.
Rotherham Borough Council, which organises the tests here through its Get Healthy Rotherham service could not give a reason for the low rate of take-up in the borough, which is below the national averarage of 43 per cent.
The authority’s director of public health, Teresa Roche, said there were no plans to scrap the checks.
“The council is dedicated to supporting residents to have healthier lives,” she said. “I urge those eligible for a health check to make use of this free service.”
The council’s cabinet member for health, Cllr David Roche, also backed the tests.
“I hope more people take advantage of the checks as they are a key part of our prevention message,” he said.
You can book at locations including the Market HUB, BreathingSpace and Rotherham fire station, or by visiting gethealthyrotherham.co.uk.
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