‘Digital’ health checks must be evidence-based and robustly evaluated, says RCGP

Commenting on plans from the Department of Health and Social Care to trial ‘at home’ NHS Health Checks, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"Health checks can play an important role in prevention and early diagnosis, but they must be based on evidence that the checks improve health outcomes for our patients. Offering patients the opportunity to carry out health checks, or some aspects of health checks, for themselves at home has merit – some sexual health services already offer users at-home self-testing options, for example,  and some patients already have equipment at home such as blood pressure monitors -– so is worth exploring. This initiative has potential to encourage people to take more of an active interest in their own health.

“We expect to see a robust evaluation of this initiative, before further decisions to roll it out more widely are made. Specifically, this needs to look at how digital health checks would link up with GP patient records, and how 'red flag' symptoms or recommendations for lifestyle change picked up by the health checks are managed. It also needs to address concerns around the potential for causing unnecessary worry for patients who may not know how to interpret their findings, practice staffing implications regarding the running, interpretation and explanation of tests, and additions to GP workload.

“It will also be vital that patients themselves receive clear instructions as to how to conduct these health checks and are consulted as to the functionality of the service. Any changes to the NHS Health Check programme must be properly communicated both to patients and healthcare professionals."

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.