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Assessing the NHS Health Check programme

Systematic review of 20 research studies of patient experience of the NHS Health Check programme.

The NHS Health Check programme was introduced in England to address high rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Mainly provided through general practice, the programme addresses CVD risk factors through behavioural change and treatment informed by risk stratification. Understanding patient experience is one way of assessing scope for improvements. This systematic review of 20 research studies of patient experience synthesised the evidence to date.

The questionnaire studies had return rates of under 42%. These reported over 80% of respondents rating the experience highly, with between 86% and 99% stating they had benefited from the NHS Health Check. Qualitative thematic analysis identified that for some the check acted as an important trigger in recognising their CVD risk and making behaviour (particularly dietary) changes. The difficulties in making behaviour changes were also reported.

However, between 7% and 15% still had unanswered questions after the NHS Health Check. Participants described: unmet expectations of health checks beyond CVD, limited understanding of the risk scores, preference for better personalised advice and information, and confusion regarding follow up by those receiving the check in community settings. It was suggested the promotional material needs to be clearer on the aims of the programme, support for behaviour change should be more proactive and that more attention needs to be paid to how the risk and need for lifestyle change is communicated. Each of these aspects should be addressed by those commissioning and providing the checks.

Usher-Smith JA, Harte E, MacLure C et al (2017) Patient experience of NHS health checks: a systematic review and qualitative synthesis. BMJ Open. 7, 8, e017169. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017169.

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