NHS under fire as older people like ‘second class citizens’ and ‘excluded’ under reforms

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Concerns have been raised about plans to scrap face-to-face NHS Health Checks in favour of asking patients to complete them at home.

A pilot in Cornwall will see 2,000 people invited to complete an online questionnaire, take their own blood sample and visit a pharmacy or GP waiting room for a blood pressure check.

Ministers said the trial would reduce pressure on ailing GPs and inform plans for a national rollout.

But Dennis Reed, director of over-60s campaign group Silver Voices, warned it appeared to ignore the needs of some older people who cannot access online services due to the cost or a lack of digital skills.

He said: “Digital health checks assume everyone is online and adept in completing online questionnaires.”

“Once again older patients are excluded from health care developments and are made to feel like second class citizens.”

“I also doubt whether the pilot will investigate the number of serious conditions that will be missed because of badly completed questionnaires and home tests.”

Mr Reed added: “There should always be the option of a face-to-face health check appointment.”

Silver Voices issued a similar warning to ministers earlier this year over plans to make the NHS app a front door to the health service.

The NHS Health Check is offered to all adults in England aged 40 to 74 every five years.

Around 15 million are eligible and the checks are designed to spot early signs of conditions such as stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

The pilot will involve three GP surgeries in Cornwall. Only people whose results indicate a problem will be contacted by their GP after their at-home check, freeing up hundreds of appointments.

Minister for Public Health Neil O’Brien said the scheme would make patients’ lives easier and reduce pressure on frontline services.

He added: “During the pandemic people got used to doing tests at home and getting their results online, so this trial is an opportunity for us to apply some of the lessons we learnt during Covid and improve the way we deliver healthcare.”

“I urge everyone invited to take part in the trial so we can get the best possible data as we look to roll out a national digital check.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said digital checks would suit some people but “won’t work for everyone, especially if they are not online”.

She said: “Therefore, it’s important that anyone who wants a face-to-face appointment with a practice nurse or other clinician for this purpose is still able to get one.”

“It’s well known that many of us are walking around with easily treatable but undiagnosed conditions like high blood pressure or cholesterol, which are potentially a significant risk to our health.”

“We therefore urge any older person who is offered a health check to take it up, especially if you’re someone lucky enough not to have needed NHS help very often recently, if at all.”



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