Pleas on doctors to act to boost health checks

The Oxford Times: Board chairman Mark Booty Board chairman Mark Booty

GP practices should be given more money to encourage people to have regular health checks, it has been proposed.

Oxfordshire’s health improvement board is investigating ways to improve take-up of health checks offered by GPs to vulnerable people.

It comes after it was revealed a target of 65 per cent attendance of health checks in the county was missed in the first two quarters of the current financial year.

Between April and June, a total of 4,165 or 41.9 per cent of the 9,938 people invited to health checks turned up to their appointments.

Only 9,351 people of 19,557, or 46 per cent, turned out between July and September.

At the moment, practices get paid £2 for every invitation they send out and £15 for every health check carried out.

Health checks are offered to all adults in England aged 40-74, who haven’t already been diagnosed with vascular diseases or have risk factors such as high blood pressure, every five years.

The Oxfordshire board, a group of councillors and officers from all six councils in the county, has called for changes to prompt an improvement in the number of people having health checks.

Board member and South Oxfordshire District Councillor Anna Badcock said many practices were not reminding their patients about health checks.

She said she had received an invite in the post and decided to wait to see how long it would take her practice to follow it up, but did not hear anything for six months.

He said: “Clearly some GP surgeries are not doing enough about it.”

Board chairman Mark Booty, pictured, a West Oxfordshire district councillor, said better use of new technologies – such as text messaging – could be used to remind people.

He said: “Throwing money at GPs won’t solve the problem. They did not train to run marketing campaigns.”

He is suggesting the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had more resources and skills to run such campaigns.

Ian Davies, a director of Cherwell and South Northamptonshire district councils, said the county should consider changing the way surgeries are paid for the health checks and invites.

He said: “This is about sharing best practice between practices.

“If there is a financial and health benefit, we have got to get smarter and if that can be improved by financial incentive then that is what we have to do.”

But he didn’t specify whether or not this incentive would involve more money being given to leading surgeries, or whether money would be taken away from those which perform badly.

Dr Bob Lewis, who manages Newbury Street GP practice in Grove was sceptical about the idea. He said: “If we had more money we could do more to encourage people, whether that would actually result in more people coming in is a moot point.”

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