Private health checks don't bring peace of mind
Private health checks or 'MOTs' are often poor value for money and at worst, dangerous, according to an investigation by Which?
Earlier this year, Which? researchers aged 46 to 62, with no known health problems, paid a total of 12 visits to six health care companies. These were the 'big three' (Bupa, Nuffield Health and BMI Healthcare) and three independents. The researchers bought comprehensive health MOTs, not including scans or X-rays, paying an average of £423.
They found that the risks involved with health MOTs such as the possibility of further tests which could be painful or risky, and potential false alarms were not always explained.
One researcher was given conflicting advice about his risk of heart disease, despite getting almost identical test results. BMI Healthcare said he had a greater risk than average for his age and should take immediate action, Nuffield Health said his risk was in line with expectations for his age, and Bupa said his risk was much better than average for his age.
Far from putting your mind at rest, these tests can cause needless worry. Which?'s expert panel said a health MOT could give false reassurance, create unnecessary worry, and could be positively dangerous if it included an unnecessary CT scan. Test results could also lead to higher insurance premiums.
£100,000,000 a year spent on MOTs
The average cost of the MOTs sampled by Which? was £423, but a private health MOT can cost anywhere between £125 and £2,000. People in the UK spend an estimated £100m on health MOTs each year.
Martyn Hocking, editor, Which? magazine, says: 'Health MOTs often cater for the "worried well" who want the reassurance of a clean bill of health, but they can cost hundreds of pounds for what sometimes amounts to little more than lifestyle and dietary advice. That might seem harmless, but a false sense of reassurance is potentially risky, and if the tests flag issues that turn out to be false alarms you could actually end up with unnecessary worry, rather than the peace of mind you signed up for.'
Dr Peter Mace, assistant clinical director at Bupa said: 'We agree that it is wrong to provide false reassurance or unnecessarily worry people with tests which may not be backed up by sound clinical evidence. This is why we ensure that people are told about the risks and benefits of all the tests they have beforehand and what the results mean for them.
'However, we don't agree with Which?'s suggestion that people are just looking for a clean bill of health. We don't see the "worried wellâ€. We see people who are interested in their health and want to take positive steps to improve it and understand their own health and health risks.'
Page created on July 24th, 2009
Page updated on December 1st, 2009