Health screening programme condemned as “useless”

NHS health checks for the over 40s are “useless” and are likely lead to patients taking drugs they don’t need.

That’s the conclusion of researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Centre who have written to The Times calling for the programe to be halted.

The Danish researchers have received support from the chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, Clare Gerada, who said that the routine checks were “devaluing medicine” and causing patients to be needlessly worried.

The Danish researchers analysed 14 randomised trials of international health check programmes, which looked at a total of 183,000 people, finding that none of them cut deaths, kept people out of hospital or prevented disability.

The researchers’ findings were published last year in the British Medical Journal and led to the Danish Government reversing its own plan for routine checks. But the researchers say that the NHS and health ministers in Britain have ignored the results and has tried to stifle debate.

In their letter to The Times the Danish researchers say that the NHS has ignored its own guidelines which say that screening programmes should be based on RCT evidence that shows they do more good than harm.

One of the authors of the letter, told the newspaper: “(there is a) preconceived notion that health checks must be a good idea. But there is a danger of being diagnosed with diseases or risk factors which wouldn’t have caused any symptoms in your lifetime.”