Health “MOTs” for people aged in England over 40 were introduced back in 2009 for the best of reasons – they are designed to help doctors screen for conditions such as heart disease, stroke or diabetes by looking for “silent” risk factors, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
But, according to research, such general check-ups are unlikely to lead to a condition needing treatment being identified and, in fact, may even make things worse by causing an individual undue stress and worry.
The Danish study for The Cochrane Library, has even gone so far as to recommend doctors consider stopping offering the checks.
The review of more than 180,000 patients concluded the check-ups do not reduce deaths overall or deaths from cancer and heart disease.
Ministers at the time of the launch suggested the scheme could save as many as 650 lives a year.
But the Danish study argued it is often the “worried well” – or people who are worried about their health but otherwise fit and healthy – who put themselves forward for such screening.
Lead researcher Lasse Krogsboll, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark, told the BBC: “From the evidence we’ve seen, inviting patients to general health checks is unlikely to be beneficial. We’re not saying that doctors should stop carrying out tests or offering treatment when they suspect that there may be a problem. But we do think that public healthcare initiatives that are systematically offering general health checks should be resisted.”
However the government responded by defending its policy and arguing that spotting people at risk of heart attacks, diabetes, stroke and kidney disease can help prevent them succumbing to the diseases.
So, what do employers and employees think? Given that many employers invest a lot in health promotion and screening – and often, especially at executive level, offer just this sort of health MOT as a perk – is it money well spent?
And, for employees, is being able to access such screening reassuring – a sign your employer really cares about you and your health – or really neither here nor there when it comes to how you think about your employer?