Couch to 5K
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Health check - the update

One or two of you might recall that I had an NHS over-40 health check at my local surgery recently. The experience wasn't altogether positive:

Anyhow, it culminated in a referral for a blood test after a seriously high cholesterol reading from a pin prick/hand held test machine operated by a less than confidence-inspiring nurse.

So I took the morning off work and had the test. Having not heard from them for over a week, I called them for the result. The conversation went like this:

"Hello, I'm just checking your result now....... And....... there's no cause for concern"


"No, nothing to report. Everything's fine"

"But you said I had seriously high cholesterol!"

"Everything's fine."

"So you don't want to follow it up, double check maybe?"

"No. Thank you. Goodbye"

I knew it. How the hell could I have high cholesterol when I've been running so much and sticking to a sensible diet for the last 18 months?

C25K is the perfect example of the NHS doing preventive care very well indeed. By contrast this check, poorly executed, was a waste of everyone's time and more importantly, your tax money.

Rant over. Let's get out there and run.

11 Replies

Good news, Rob........and the inevitable bad news.


Thanks. Do you realise just how bad the bad news is? It's the " your tax money" thing that really gets me. Think about this:

C25k. Total cost comprises the production cost of the podcasts and the video for the website, the cost of commissioning some cheesy music, some website development and a a few extras. Let's assume all that came to £100,000. Sounds a lot? There are 13,000 subscribers to the C25k part of this site and they're the only people ever to use the programme. Let's assume half of them complete the programme, that's 6,500. If in doing so they remove some burden from the NHS as a result of improved health then the cost of doing so is about £17 each. Over time, as more people graduate, this cost goes down. Production of the whole thing could have been subbed out to a private sector company who would be no burden to the NHS in terms of resource and at the same time would be providing employment and generating tax revenue through PAYE and VAT etc. Essentially the possibility exists that this is Net-zero cost project that saves lives and relieves pressure on the NHS. Perfect.

Contrast that with my health check experience. Total cost comprises production of the marketing campaign to the public, issue of letters to every over-40 in the country, education for every GP in the country, administration of the scheme at the GP, paying a nurse to do the test at every GP, sending people like me for blood tests, reviewing the result and conducting follow ups where necessary. Care to put a cost on all that? No doubt they will save a good number of people in the process, but all of it, the entire process, is a direct burden on the NHS. All of this costs real money - your money and my money at a time when the NHS is struggling to keep up and we're all already taxed beyond all bounds of reason.

At the very least they could take it seriously and learn how to use a cholesterol tester properly..... The NHS is a precious thing and the front line health care people work their backsides off to look after us, I know. But the back office administration is a disaster and putting a strain on the use of resources that this country just cannot sustain.


Great that your surgery offers this Rob, despite the $@#& up!!!


Good news that you've got the all clear.

I had the same "test" about a year ago. My surgery didn't bother with a pinprick test, going straight for the full fasting blood test.

Despite me having had chest pain from reflux for a couple of months, high blood pressure, a family history of heart trouble, being overweight and admitting I did no excercise and drank too much alcohol, because the blood tests came back OK they said everything was fine.

When I said I was thinking of loseing some weight and starting some excercise the comment was "OK that's not a bad idea". No help or suggestions whatsoever.

I think it's a good opportunity missed.


I don't see how the pinprick test can be accuate so it probably was wrong initially, I'm sorry you were worried unecessarily. . I have high cholesterol and have have fasting lipids done to monitor each year I've never had a pinprick test done and always wpndered about their accuracy


I have been on statins for 4 years now and get blood taken very year. However once on statins its not essential for it to be fasted blood, so they say!!!! But never done by pin prick its a ruddy great big vile, maybe we have vampires at my surgery ;)


No, nothing. You make a good point though. I'll call them again.


Funny, this year I went through two full checks. One was the NHS over 40 and the other privately through work. The two couldn't have been more different. The NHS one involved two visits, one to take buckets of blood to be sent away for testing, and a second to get results that didn't say a lot, only 'it's fine'. The private one was done at a Lloyd's pharmacy. Doing pinprick tests that were analysed on machines. Just like NHS the tests were fasting tests. The whole thing took half an hour, the results were very comprehensive and fully explained. The nhs did weight, pressure and cholesterol but lloyds added glucose and saliver tests as proof of being a non smoker as well. I came away with printouts grom every test, explanations of what they meant and what the healthy bands are and advice about improving my health. (Though the only thing they could advise was weight loss, because I am now a very picture of health!). The machines and initial training would have cost a lot but surely they are better than burdening the local hospital with doing the tests with older samples and issuing results that don't get used!

I mentioned at both that I had already lost a lot of weight and both were surprised when I said it was by eating less and exercising more. Isn't that what doctors advocate?

It is a shame though that even trying to do the right thing in preventative care the NHS find a very labour intensive way of doing it, that puts even more onto already burdened practice nurses and hospital labs.


I would definitely follow up to get a fuller picture from the surgery.

I seem to be very lucky with the annual mot I get. The practice nurses are amazed by my change in weight & fitness and I have given them advice about the NHS weight loss plan and c25k! As many folk say, you would think they would know about this amazing resource.

I saw the practice manager with Ian's poster and the health unlocked one and she asked me to do a picture of me and a profile about my success with weight loss and fitness. There are 6 surgeries in the practice & it is going up in all of them.


In my experience, the receptionist won't tell you any detail of your results, whatever they are! You have to make an appointment to see the GP. Unless its serious and then they tend to ring you!


Thats really disappointing how you were treated, I am so sorry the NHS has let you down ( I am a nurse) with appalling communication and management, however great there is nothing to be concerned about, running is the best!! :)


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