geradaHealth checks offered to millions of people between the ages of 40 and 74 are a waste of time according to Royal College of GPs chair Dr Clare Gerada who claims the government is promoting its NHS Health Check programme "against good evidence".

Her comments come after a Danish study by the Nordic Cochrane Centre group found health MoTs did not reduce deaths despite ministers claiming it would "save 650 lives a year". 

The initiative, launched in 2009, is designed to spot conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes by looking for silent risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

'Not based on good evidence'
The review by the Nordic Cochrane Centre Group, published in October 2012, looked at health checks offered in a number of countries, including some pilot trials in the UK a decade or more ago, though not the post-2009 programme.

It concluded that general health checks failed to benefit patients and could instead cause them unnecessary worry and treatment.

Dr Gerada of the RCGP shares these concerns saying that health checks are "not based on good evidence".

"The government are pulling in an awful lot of people [for health checks] who have nothing wrong with them. And the very people you would want to be dragging in do not attend."

In launching the programme, the NHS estimated that cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) is approximately £3,000 but Dr Gerada says that money would be better spent on targeted intervention.

Focusing on hard-to-reach groups
"We should be focusing on the hard-to-reach groups instead and policies like plain packaging for cigarettes and minimum pricing for alcohol," Dr Gerada added.

However, the Department of Health says the NHS Health Check programme is based on expert guidance that is continually reviewed.

A spokeswoman for Public Health England said the existing relevant evidence, together with operational experience accruing on the ground, was "compelling support for the programme".