Deadly shortage of money


Millions may miss health checks for potentially fatal conditions, an investigation has revealed, because cash-strapped hospitals deem them a low priority.
As many as nine million patients may miss out on checks designed to spot potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, unless current provision and uptake improve, according to the GP magazine investigation, The Telegraph Newspaper reported. The health checks look for risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure. One senior GP criticised the ‘ad hoc’ programme, saying more central guidance is needed, while one health trust said carrying out the checks is not a priority due to ‘other pressures’ and a charity leader warns of a ‘postcode lottery’.
In April a mandatory target to check 20% of those aged 40-74 each year was introduced, having been an informal target since 2009.
The GP magazine sent freedom of information requests to all 151 primary care trusts (PCTs) in England, of which 118 responded. The figures obtained show that in 2011-12, 1.7 million checks were offered to patients: 14% of all those eligible for the programme. Around 920,000 checks were actually carried out. This is an increase on 2010-11 when 1.1 million checks were offered and 645,000 were carried out. Around two-thirds (64%) of PCTs did not provide enough NHS health checks to meet the government’s 20% aspirational target in 2011-12, the GP magazine said.
One-fifth (21%) of PCTs admitted they will fail to meet the compulsory target in 2012-13, despite being given three years to prepare, the figures show. Three PCTs did not provide a single check in 2011-12 and another provided just four checks. A spokeswoman for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, which did not provide any checks in 2011-12, told GP magazine that the programme is not prioritized owing to other pressures.
Nationally, patient uptake is falling, with only 54% attending a check in 2011-12, down from 60% in 2010-11. Just 11% of patients in NHS Portsmouth turned up for their check.