Foreword by Martin Tod, Chief Executive, Men's Health Forum
Martin Tod, Chief Executive, Men's Health Forum
Making NHS Health Checks work for men
Today, one UK man in five dies before the age of 65. Three-quarters of premature deaths from heart disease and two-thirds of premature deaths from diabetes occur among men.
At the Men’s Health Forum, we strongly support the NHS Health Check as a way of reducing these unnecessary and avoidable deaths.
There are big challenges. Men make up the majority of those who could benefit from NHS Health Checks, but are less likely to attend. This means that men end up being in the minority of those who receive an NHS Health Check.
Earlier this year, we surveyed 718 working age men over 40 across England to understand their awareness of NHS Health Checks.
This revealed a clear part of the problem: men don’t know about them. Even when prompted, only 22% of respondents said they had heard of NHS Health Checks. Only 14% said they had been invited, yet 81% of those invited said they’d attended.
These figures are so different from invitation rates amongst men reported by local authorities that it suggests that many men have no idea that they’ve ever been invited. Communication just isn’t getting through.
Our research also showed work is a barrier. More men work full-time, and many men won’t take time off work even for serious medical symptoms, let alone to be checked for conditions with few physical symptoms. The challenge for NHS Health Checks is therefore even greater.
None of these problems are insurmountable. So, what can be done?
First, it is essential that local authorities track their performance amongst men. In a recent survey only 45 LAs were able to tell us what proportion of checks were delivered to men and how many men had been invited. We want local authorities to challenge themselves to improve their understanding and use this to inform service delivery.
Second, more and better communication to men about NHS Health Checks – male-tailored and more relevant, memorable and motivating – is crucial to encouraging men to take up an offer of a check.
Finally, barriers to NHS Health Checks must be reduced for people in full-time work. NHS Health Checks need to be available in the workplace and outside office hours – and easily bookable, for example via Patient Online.