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INSIDE TRACK: Left feeling confused as 'life should begin at 40'

One of the questions I am asked as a journalist is how I find my stories.

To answer simply, more often than not articles arise from conversations I have with other people.

This week, however, I was the source of my own exclusive. You see, I turned 40 this year and so expected to be offered my "life begins at 40" health check. This was, after all, promised by the SNP in their 2007 manifesto and introduced by then Public Health Minister Shona Robison in 2011.

My husband received a letter within days of his 40th birthday inviting him to fill in the necessary questionnaire.

Of course, the system setup involved completing a form on-line and then receiving more information, not quite the GP surgery chat the manifesto seemed to promise. That was one of the reasons I wanted to enter the process and see what it was like. But I also hoped it would help me address a couple of health issues I need to consider, given my family history of breast cancer.

Anyway, my birthday came and went (February 5, should you wish to note it for next year) and no letter arrived. I figured it was a bit much to expect it straight away, but sometime in late April I was on the phone to my surgery regarding a repeat prescription and thought I would raise the subject.

The receptionist, who is always lovely, said: "Oh, I don't know anything about that. You are the first person ever to ask."

Well, I thought, NHS 24 are looking after these health checks, maybe they have no reason to know much about them locally.

But an internet search yielded little more than the launch press release and a non-functioning web page so I rang the health desk press office at the Scottish Government. I was thinking, I don't suppose they have got rid of them, but you never know.

Turned out they had. Scrapped them last year without saying a word.

The first statement they sent me, however, waffled on about an evaluation finding the programme "would provide greater value in conjunction with other sources of information on health and wellbeing". It was so unclear I had to double check and wait almost another day to find out "life begins" had been "discontinued".

GPs, I know, have always been sceptical about what is achieved by giving people who would otherwise not trouble their door a "check up". I agree that resources should be targeted at the most deprived and would willingly give up one or two universal benefits for that cause. But, I also find doctors who talk disparagingly about the "worried well", a bit patronising.

Catch-cancer-early campaigns keep telling us to worry and have things checked out. Most of the people who come forward as a result will be fine but, without medical training, they weren't to know, and the "worried ill" whose health problems are caught in time become NHS success stories.

Many of we health conscious types would welcome a health check to rule out serious issues. Isn't that why the SNP dangled the idea like a carrot at election time and changed their minds on the quiet?

Some will say that's politics. But leaving people waiting for check-ups that will never arrive, in the worst case scenario, could risk lives.

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

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