PEOPLE over the age of 40 are putting their lives at risk by not getting free health checks.

Fewer than half of the county’s 40 to 74-year-olds are attending the NHS checks, latest figures show.

The county council, which is now responsbile for the tests under its public health remit, said it is trying to improve take-ups which are used to spot early signs of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and dementia.

Only 45.9 per cent attended tests in the 12 months from April 1, 2013.This is below a county target of 65 per cent for the test.

The 20 to 30-minute test includes a finger prick blood sample to test cholesterol, a blood pressure test and weighing to check body mass index.

Doctors also ask about the patient’s health such as smoking, family history and physical activity levels.

Cabinet member for public health and the voluntary sector Hilary Hibbert-Biles said the tests can stop problems doing “real damage” to a person’s health. She said: “NHS Health Checks are a simple way of making sure some of your body's most important systems are all running smoothly.”

Residents who do not have regular appointments should be invited every five years to attend a check-up but just 19,001 out of 41,368 went last year.

In England last year, 48.9 per cent attended, up 9.5 per cent from the previous year.

In April last year, Oxfordshire County Council took over responsibility for the tests and said it is taking action to improve uptake and is aiming for 65 per cent.

It said it is working with GP surgeries to create template invite letters and “to see what works in improving uptake”.

The authority said it is planning an autumn public event to raise awareness and working with GP-ped Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) to build relationships with family doctors.

Headington GP and OCCG clinical chair Dr Joe McManners said: “The main thing we find is that people, when they are well, they are too busy to come for them. It is a challenge to track down people who don’t normally come to doctors.”

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