Tens of thousands of people in Peterborough have missed out on a vital health check that spots early signs of several life-threatening conditions.
Adults aged between 40 and 74 in England should be invited for an NHS health check-up by their local authority every five years.
The check is designed to spot risk factors and early symptoms of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.
Public Health England estimates that there are 52,300 people in Peterborough who were eligible for the check in the five years to June 2019.
Of these, just 37.1 per cent attended an appointment during that time – meaning 32,900 went without.
However, the figures show at least 9,773 of them were never sent an invite in the first place.
They joined 10 million others across England who also did not have an appointment.
Nikki Joule, policy manager at Diabetes UK, said it was extremely concerning so many were not benefiting from the check, putting them at risk of suffering the “devastating and costly complications” of diabetes in the future.
She said: “If left undiagnosed diabetes can lead to sight loss, amputations, strokes and kidney failure, but these free, 15 minute health checks can help prevent the onset of the condition, pick up people who are undiagnosed and help to keep them healthy.”
Davinia Green, head of prevention at the Stroke Association, added: “When stroke strikes, lives change in an instant.
“It is important that people know their risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation, blood pressure and cholesterol – three big risk factors for stroke that the NHS health checks look for.”
Councils are legally required to try to improve the uptake rate each year.
Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said councils wanted to do more to improve uptake, particularly among high risk groups, but warned more money was needed.
He said: “Every pound invested by government in council-run services can relieve pressure on other essential services like the NHS and save much more money further down the line.”
Jamie Waterall, national lead for the NHS Health Check at Public Health England, said: “The number of people attending an NHS Health Check during the first quarter of this year, from April to June, is up 10 per cent on the same period last year - the highest it has been since 2015/16.
“The check is quick and easy, providing a world leading prevention programme, and years of ill health and thousands of lives may have been saved.”
A spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: “The NHS Health Check programme is an important way of helping people aged 40 to 74 to understand their risk of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases such as dementia, and we would always encourage people to attend.
“The eligible population for health checks is identified for five year periods and is based on national estimates for the number of people living in Peterborough, not directly on the numbers of people registered with a GP.
“Unlike some national programmes such as breast and cervical screenings, where invitations are co-ordinated more centrally, invitations for health checks are sent out directly from GP practices. Our ‘Healthy Peterborough’ Integrated Lifestyles Service also offers outreach health checks for people who are less likely to be able to attend a GP practice.
“We don’t hold detailed information on the reasons why some people weren’t invited for a health check in Peterborough, but our statistics for the percentage of the eligible population that were not invited to a health check over the past five years is similar to the percentage nationally.”