Diabetes UK condemns 'tragic failure' of West NHS
Health services in the Westcountry have been shamed as some of the worst in the country for delivering checks for preventable diseases.
A new report from Diabetes UK revealed that just 25 people in Cornwall – almost zero per cent – were offered the NHS Health Check in 2011-12 while in Plymouth it was only 4.2%.
The checks, which test people aged 40 to 74 for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, were significantly higher in Devon at 12.3% but still below the England average of 13.9%.
In its report – called Let's Get it Right – Diabetes UK warned poor local implementation of the NHS Health Check meant people who were at high risk of Type 2 diabetes were missing the chance to get the information and support they need to help prevent the condition.
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Graham Cooper, South West regional manager for Diabetes UK, said: "The failure to properly implement the NHS Health Check has potentially dire consequences.
"It means that people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes are missing out on the information and support to make the lifestyle changes that can help prevent it.
"It is also vital that people with the condition are diagnosed as early as possible to reduce their risk of complications and those people who missed being diagnosed last year are at increased risk of amputation, blindness, kidney failure and stroke. Put together, this means the poor implementation of the NHS Health Check is a tragic failure.
"NHS and local authority leaders in the area need to start giving this programme a much higher priority than has previously been the case.
"Until this happens, it will be letting down local people who have either undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes or are at high risk of developing the condition. Urgent action is needed."
A spokesman for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust said the checks had not been "prioritised" last year, although a successful pilot scheme was now seeing the service rolled out across the county.
The local programme is to start in the north and west of the county with people being offered the check every five years. Twenty-eight practices are to start the programme this month. The rest of the county will follow from April next year.
"The NHS Health Check aims to save lives by supporting people to make lifestyle changes and, if necessary, to start medication early to hopefully prevent the onset of disease," said Gwyn Williams, NHS Health Checks manager for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.
"To complement the roll-out, we are also developing initiatives that we hope to introduce into workplace settings to help address health inequalities."