Welcome to Local Spotlight, a regular feature in Collaborate, our stakeholder newsletter, that shines the light on the amazing public health people, teams, programmes and projects in Cheshire and Merseyside’s nine local areas that are really worth shouting about.
This month, we are shining a light on Halton, where a pilot focusing on inequalities is helping to increase the uptake of vital health checks for local residents.
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A pilot currently taking place in Halton will aim to increase the uptake of NHS Health Checks amongst priority residents and reduce the risk of serious complications from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other diseases.
As part of a wider pilot to improve the reach and delivery of the NHS Health Check while considering inequalities, Halton has undertaken insight with target audiences to learn more about the current perceptions of the health check and potential barriers stopping people from taking up the offer.
The NHS Health Check is a health check-up for adults in England aged 40 to 74. It identifies risk factors for cardiovascular disease (including, but not limited to smoking, alcohol, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc) so patients can be supported to address these risk factors at an earlier stage and lower their risk of developing heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia.
NHS Health Checks were introduced in 2009 and initially had a national average uptake of 5.8 per cent in the first year. Since then, uptake has increased, with a national uptake of 52 per cent in 2020, however uptake remains below the initial modelling by the Department of Health, which assumed 75 per cent attendance.
Uptake of NHS health Checks is often lower in those who stand to benefit the most, including those living in more deprived areas, certain ethnic minority groups, and working age males.
Like many other areas, Halton faces challenges regarding deprivation and the inequalities this creates and is working with other partners in the Cheshire and Merseyside health and care system, under the umbrella of All Together Fairer, to reduce these inequalities as much as possible.
The insight, which was undertaken with those in the target age range, ethnic minority residents, those with a low socio-economic background, provided a wealth of information for the local health system to help increase overall uptake.
Some of the findings related to barriers to access, like language barriers, issues with booking appointments and transport concerns, amongst others. Following the insight, a set of recommendations have been developed, with the next phase of the pilot hoping to implement as many of these recommendations as possible.
Speaking about these findings, Dr Ifeoma Onyia, Director of Public Health for Halton, said:
“It’s really important that we speak to people in our community so that we can better understand how to make our services work for them and make sure that they have all the information they need too, so they can decide if they want an NHS Heath Check when it is offered to them.
“The rich insight we have been able to get from this work is really exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing how our next phase, the putting into practice of the recommendations, goes.
“In the meantime, I would absolutely encourage anyone who is eligible for an NHS Health Check to get one. I think of them like a health MOT. They are free, readily accessible and could potentially be life-saving. The check can detect something like high blood pressure or the risk of diabetes early on, and we actually work with the individual to identify steps to reduce the negative impact.”
To find out more about NHS Health Checks, please visit: https://www.healthcheck.nhs.uk
To find out more about the NHS Health Checks pilot in Halton, please contact: Stephen.Purcell@halton.gov.uk