NHS Health Check

Your NHS Health Check guide

What is an NHS Health Check?

The NHS Health Check is a sophisticated check of your heart health. Aimed at adults in England aged 40 to 74, it checks your vascular or circulatory health and works out your risk of developing some of the most disabling – but preventable – illnesses.

Think of your NHS Health Check as being your "midlife MOT". It checks that some of your body's most important systems are all running smoothly. Among other things, your blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI will all be checked and your results given to you. 

Crucially, your NHS Health Check can detect potential problems before they do real damage. Everyone is at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and some forms of dementia. The good news is that these conditions can often be prevented.

Your NHS Health Check will assess your risk of developing these health problems and give you personalised advice on how to reduce it.

It's free of charge, including any follow-up tests or appointments.

Why the NHS Health Check is important

Thousands of people have already had an NHS Health Check. They are now armed with information and support to reduce their risk of developing heart and vascular problems. Why not join them?

Together, the vascular conditions identified by the NHS Health Check are the biggest cause of preventable deaths in the UK, affecting more than 4 million people.

Every year, the NHS Health Check is expected to help:

  • save 650 lives
  • prevent 1,600 heart attacks and strokes
  • prevent 4,000 people from developing diabetes
  • detect at least 20,000 cases of diabetes or kidney disease earlier

If you want to avoid being a statistic, it's worth making an appointment for an NHS Health Check as soon as you get your invitation.

Find out more about why you should have an NHS Health Check.

How to get an NHS Health Check

You'll be invited for an NHS Health Check every five years if you are between 40 and 74 years old, as long as you don't have an existing vascular condition.

You'll usually get your NHS Health Check at a GP practice or local pharmacy, but it could happen at other convenient places in your neighbourhood, depending on where you live. Find out more about ways to get the NHS Health Check.

Even if you don't qualify yet for an NHS Health Check, there are plenty of other ways to build up a picture of your health.

What happens at the NHS Health Check

At the check, you'll be asked some questions about your lifestyle and family medical history. You'll also have some routine tests. From these, your healthcare professional will be able to give you an idea of your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes. As well as a breakdown of your results, you'll get an overall score giving your risk of getting heart disease or stroke. If you're over 65, you will also be told the signs and symptoms of dementia, and you'll be made aware of memory services nearby.

After your results have been explained, you’ll be offered personalised advice and support to help stay healthy, and lower your risk if any of your results need improving. This advice could include suggestions on small changes to your diet or how much exercise you should take if your risk is low or moderate.

If you are at higher risk, your healthcare professional might want to discuss whether you should be taking medicines to control your blood pressure or cholesterol, along with help to take action such as losing weight, becoming more active or stopping smoking.

By having a routine NHS Health Check for these conditions every five years, you can take action early and greatly improve your chance of a longer, healthier and happier life. You may be surprised how some small, long-lasting changes to your lifestyle can make a huge difference.

How the NHS Health Check will help

Once you've had your NHS Health Check, you'll have a good idea of what your risk is of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia. There are some risk factors for these diseases that can't be changed; for example, your risk increases with age. But there's a lot you can do to reduce your risk. You can:

Your NHS Health Check will give you information and support to help you reach your health goals and enjoy a better quality of life. By acting to reduce your risk, you'll have more chance of dodging the debilitating and potentially disabling effects of illnesses such as diabetes and stroke.

For more details, read FAQs about the NHS Health Check.


Page last reviewed: 01/05/2014

Next review due: 01/05/2016

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The 23 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Almost There said on 20 July 2014

Am I missing the point here? The actions listed of maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, eat a healthy and balanced diet, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol apply to everyone. What is the point of doing a load of risk tests if the requirements to reduce the risk are always the same? Why not just tell people they should maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, eat a healthy and balanced diet, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol ?
Is there anything else I am likely to be told if I undergo this health check?

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Ms SWAKO said on 06 July 2014

Never again. The tests started well and the nurse was friendly until my results were conveyed to me. I was told I was too fat and must lose weight. I was told how to do this and told I was to take the preferred choice offered. It was horrible and I felt terrible afterwards and had a little cry. There was nothing actually wrong with me. I am healthy but the results made me feel dreadful.

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Garry Smod said on 02 July 2014

I had a full NHS health check 15 months ago. My results were very good but I queried why I was not tested for Diabetes. I was told my risk was not high because I wasn't " a fatty or an oldie ".

I had some symptoms of diabetes, which I didn't know were symptoms at the time of the health check, and these got worse. I eventually visited my GP who did test for Diabetes and has now confirmed the diagnosis.

During the health check nobody asked if I had symptoms - they were more interested in my ethnicity and my first language than my health. Half the time was spent entering my data in to a mobile computer screen.

The NHS health check does not pick up on current symptoms. There is no common method of completing the heath check - luck plays a part on who is doing the tests and how many they do.

I definitely postponed seeing my GP as my health test results were all green happy faces (yes, that is how my results were presented) and I would have been referred if my results were red sad faces.

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Not in Kansas anymore said on 28 June 2014

The heath check is an NHS service which is actually free. Wow. That is so much better than the prescriptions required for health care, or the dental charges, or the eye tests. Why is the NHS spending money on healthy people when people who need health care have to pay out money?

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washington5 said on 28 June 2014

I had to try and delay my health check. I was planning to upgrade and increase my critical illness and life cover when I received my invite. As the Health Check could increase my premiums if it detected a higher risk of disease or if I was advised to moderate my lifestyle in some way this would have required me to declare it on my life insurance form which would have increased premiums. In the end the health check could not be postponed so I was advised to complete my insurance changes and then contact my GP surgery for a well person check which covered the same items and I could then take up the Heath Check Screen in 5 years.

I am disappointed that the NHS never reflects the disadvantages of screening only the advantages. It feels as if it does not trust patients to make decisions which are in their own interests. There is an inbuilt bias in the motivation of the NHS providers to increase uptakes which ignores how patients may or may not benefit. The focus should be on giving patients information which is complete and can be understood and not the numbers accepting. The acceptance rates just justify the cost which has little to do with patient benefits.

When will NHS choices highlight the anxiety and harms of screening healthy patients for potential disease or disease which have no impact if they were not detected?

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AZN Laydee said on 27 June 2014

As I cannot change the big risk factors of age and genetics (family history) how do I opt out of the repeated requests to attend? My GP does not control the invite list. Is there yet another NHS database being created for the Heath Check? Why not have a single database which asks the patient which screening services they wish to opt in or opt out?

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Guild of Lily said on 26 June 2014

I agree with T0ffeeGirl. Having attended my health check I was bemused by the advice and the overall lack of impact. I think most attendees will know what they should be doing to stay healthy and the health check seems like a poor excuse to give them a chat from a well intentioned but imprecise health assistant or nurse. The money spent on this latest gimmick would be better spent making GP appointments available when patients need to a medical adviser. Patients understand what they should do to stay healthy but make choices based on their life approach in the pursuit of happiness and unfortunately that means occasionally they do not take the healthy option every time no matter how much nagging the NHS does.

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T0ffeeGirl said on 25 June 2014

I think there are probably 2 circumstances in which these checks might produce genuine benefits. 1. if you are not already aware of what constitutes a healthy, balanced lifestyle and need to find that out and assess the extent to which you comply or 2. you are susceptible to pressure and persuasion. Personally, I think I have a reasonable grasp on what is healthy and what isn't - eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, don't smoke, drink in moderation, keep your mind active etc. My trouble is complying with some of that. I can tick a few boxes but the healthy weight and exercise needs more work. I know this. I have mirrors and scales. That's where 2. comes in. If the harsh words and not so subtle pressure of a medic is likely to jolt you in to changing your ways then go for it. For me however, I am my harshest critic - if my own scorn and displeasure at the increasing lumps and bumps appearing on my middle aged frame are not enough motivation to step away from the fridge and in to lycra then I can be pretty sure that the well infomred and well meant words of the local nurse won't be. The bottom line unfortunately is that we are all responsible to ourselves for this. There is no magic pill to health and wellbeing. As individuals we all need to make choices about how we want to live our lives and will ultimately have to face the consequences of those choices. However unpaletable it is, those extra pounds I carry are my own doing. I have chosen the path that's led me there through my chronic lack of will power and if that indulgence eventually leads to unpleasant health complications then I will only have myself to blame. For me, a health check isnt going to change that. Perhaps the money is better spent in the education of the young on such matters - raise awareness before their bad habits are too ingrained.

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Seranambia said on 22 June 2014

The advice is only personalised by adding your name at the start or end of the sentence. Well, Patient Name, you should do more exercise/stop smoking/drink less. How do you feel about that? Condescending and biased. Evidence linking risk to results is weak in many cases. The real risks of illness and disease are not covered. This seems designed to make patients self sufficient in treating themselves and passing blame on any illness to their lifestyle. I was reminded how much money the NHS would save by me making lifestyle choices. It did not feel like choice more of a nag and a moan to change with no real support other than a telephone number.

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listic fall gal said on 14 June 2014

My Health Check revealed my Heart Attack or Stroke risk in the next 10 years is 45.6%. My cholesterol ratio is normal at 4.4 times. My BMI is normal at 24.7 (Height 172cm Weight 73kg). My systolic blood pressure is normal at 120. I am a non-smoker. I have no diseases or illnesses. I was amazed at how high my risk is and have been worried ever since having the test having considered myself to have been fit and healthy all my life.

The risk comes from all the factors I cannot change. My age. My ethnicity. It seems that age will be a significant factor and far more important than the lifestyle questions. Is there any point telling a 74 year old the risk of a Heart Attack if the risk is always going to be so high? All the Health Check has done for me is made me worry and to such an extent that I now cannot sleep very well. I may end up going to my GP for some help and ask for sleeping tablets.

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Larchmont said on 11 June 2014

No sure this is worth the money.

I was told my risks range from 'low' to 'high' for the different results. I was told I will be referred and may be offered tablets for the rest of my life. The tablets may help to reduce my risk from high to medium. The tablets may also have side effects. If I take the tablets I could still develop the disease. If I do not take the tablets I am still unlikely to develop the disease. My risk was 11% of developing the disease - so 89% of not developing it.

I would like to see the results expressed as chances of not incurring disease over the next ten years. This would be more realistic for most people and more reassuring.

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Confused_of_Loughborough said on 07 June 2014

Am I eligible? I was in Nottingham and picked up a Health Check leaflet. A copy can be found here http://www.nottinghamcity.nhs.uk/images/stories/docs/GP_Portal/Healthcheck_leaflet.pdf
The leaflet states I may be eligible for a Health Check as long as I am registered with a GP in Nottingham. I live in Leicestershire where I am also registered with a local GP. Do I need to re-register to a Nottinghamshire GP to access a Health Check? If so, do I travel to Nottinghamshire for the check or can I still have it arranged more locally? If the Health Check is so important why is it not available in the same way across England? Why do Welsh and Scots NHS choose not to provide this Health Check?

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Mirinaba said on 06 June 2014

My local GP surgery has been really keen to write and invite patients for the health check. The local authority increased the price they were paid to £30 per check. My complete check took 20 minutes so that is good for the GP practice, good for my health, and ensures the council moves forward on their Health strategy. It is a shame that the evidence of benefits for health checks appears to be overstated according to non-NHS authors and clinicians. This is probably why the Health Check is unique to England.

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Aero Smurfette said on 05 June 2014

Thanks for the Health Check. I am only at moderate risk of a couple of potential issues later in life. I also know after a conversation with a nurse that I am not prepared to change my happy lifestyle choices and my risk will therefore not change. #WasteofMoney

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Miss Construct said on 02 June 2014

An awful experience. During the lifestyle interrogation session the nurse worked out my alcohol units. I mentioned I had two or three standard glasses of wine one evening over the weekend. She calculated the units and compared this to the safe level of drinking. This was 175ml x 11% x three. 5.8 units in total which was classed as excessive and not within the safe levels. She said I had to cut down and should restrict my intake to no more than two glasses of wine making sure this was only 2 or 3 days a week. It is all a load of rubbish.Everything else was fine, as I expected. Not really sure why I bothered in the first place. Results are sent to the GP who will then make then available to the care.data HSCIC database for sale to researchers and other third parties. I wonder when the drinks companies will access the data on the basis of improving health by analysing drinking habits?

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Chase Nature said on 30 May 2014

I was able to see a nurse at my GP surgery for my Health Check just by phoning through and requesting an appointment. The tests are simple enough but the results are a little disappointing and simply signpost ways to live heathier. It was all really obvious and did not have a feeling of a health check. To be honest, most of the tests can bve done at home with one or two home testing kits. Expect to be told to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, move more etc. My BMI was below 25 but the nurse still insisted on measureing my waist and told me I still could do with losing more weight as my waist was near the upper level of what 'they' recommend. I will not be counting down for a return trip in 5 years. If you do not expect much you will not be disappointed.

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Pat Villars said on 23 May 2014

I was only given two scores for my Cholesterol - LDL Cholesterol and Total Cholesterol. My sister had a check at a different centre and was informed of her Cholesterol Ratio Score. Her Ratio was over 4 and she was told this could indicate problems with circulation and heart. My two scores were similar to hers but I was never given my Cholesterol ratio. It seems amateurish for the NHS to provide different tests at different places which then provide different results for patients. It is not scientific. Why is the Health Check not standardised for everyone? Should I see my GP to obtain my ratio score as I fear I will also have a high risk ratio.

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SamanShad said on 23 May 2014

I had my 20 minutes check. The tests took about three minutes and the chat about cutting down on alcohol and loosing a few pounds went on for about 15 minutes. It seemed the nurse was trying every trick in the book to put fear and worry in my choice to have a drink when I felt like it or eating what I chose. The NHS should help people when they need it and not dictate or bully them in to making choices set out by the NHS or the Government of the day. There were no real facts to the risks, and those that were mentioned were limited to propaganda and very selective.

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TheColonel said on 14 May 2014

I had my check a little while ago at my GP practice. It was actually the nurse that did the check and it was a surprisingly positive experience. My risk wan't too bad but apparently my colesterol could be a bit better, this was a bit of a surprise because I think of myself as being quite healthy. I was given a leaflet telling me of some optionsto improve my cholesterol and the nurse suggested ways to keep active as I get older. I suppose it's down to the person doing the test but mine wasfine and I've recommended it to several friends.

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Nod Six said on 13 May 2014

I had my Health Check today. I was told I was a little bit chubby and need to lose a little bit of weight. Being called 'chubby' is not what I consider personalised advice - it is just rude.

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Phyllost said on 06 May 2014

I live in Cheshire and despite being 52 I have never received an inviation to attend an NHS Health Check. I am not on a disease register. I was puzzled after reading this page so I looked up my local data for Cheshire West and Chester to see that only 5% of the total elegible population have been offered a Health Check in 2013 and Quarter 1 2014. Although 3 in 4 people who were offered the check took up the offer it is worrying that so few are ever offered. The postcode lottery with NHS care continues. If you live on London Borough of Croydon only 82 people out of 97,000 were offered a health check since 2013 (That's 0.1% of the population). Data is now available at http://www.healthcheck.nhs.uk

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Zherbe said on 05 May 2014

Why is this article so badly written. "If you want to avoid being a statistic, it's worth making an appointment for an NHS Health Check as soon as you get your invitation" implies that you can avoid being statistic. Of course, you are always a statistic.
"Sophisticated checks" not really. Height, Weight, Chlosterol, Blood Pressure and a few Yes/No answers on lifestyle.
Let's have some honesty. The NHS Health Check is now provided and commissioned by Local Authorities. They can engage third party, commercial organisations, who are paid for the service. They collect patient data and forward it to GP which is them available via HSCIC to be sold to commercial companies under 'strict' controls. The roll out has been very poor, most parts of the country have achieved single figure attendance of elegible populations. You will receive very simple lifestyle advice to reduce risk. No risk is eliminated. The Health Checks are now being aggresively promoted "You are now due" rather then "You are invited". Commissioners pay providers for attendance, not results or outcomes of the health assessment.

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Leaf_in_the_wind said on 01 May 2014

This is all very good, but the key thing is communicating the results to the patient so they can understand what they need to do and then get their buy in. Then really they should be checked up on regularly and offered support if necessary. My worry is that the poor patient gets bombed with loads of info and walks out not really getting it.

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