50+ health * Healthy living

Health MOTs not cost-effective

Targetting high risk people cuts costs

Using patient records to target people at high risk of heart disease will save as many lives as health MOTs for all adults over the age of 40, and be cheaper to run, say UK researchers.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the UK, and costs the UK economy around £30 billion each year.

Currently the UK is in the process of introducing a national screening programme designed to identify people at high risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

All adults between the ages of 40 to 74 will be offered "health MOTs," consisting of blood tests, blood pressure monitoring and a heart disease review.

Individuals then receive further treatment depending on their test results.

The screening programme is expected to prevent 9,500 heart attacks and strokes every year and will cost around £250 million to run.

However, in to-day's online British Medical Journal (BMJ), researchers from Cambridge University compared different screening strategies for identifying people at high risk of heart disease, using data from the UK EPIC-Norfolk study - a European study into the causes of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Using electronic patient records to identify those at high risk of chronic disease is just as effective as the Health MOTs at saving lives or other methods of screening, they said. It would also be cheaper to run as fewer people would require tests.

In addition to this, the researchers said a similar benefit could be achieved by inviting all 50 to 74 year olds for screening, rather than starting at the age of 40 which is the current UK policy.

In an accompanying editorial in the BMJ, Dr Tom Marshall, a senior lecturer in public health from the University of Birmingham, agrees that targeted screening programmes should be used.

"He said: “there are untreated patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease, most of whom can be identified from their electronic primary care records … we should act on this information.”

This article was published on Mon 26 April 2010



Image © Olga Gabai - Fotolia.com


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