Health check ups - parity of treatment

Richard Martin




Being of a certain age, I now receive five yearly health MoTs from my GP surgery. The first was just this week. I was given the results of my blood tests, not too bad as it turns out, although I eat too much cheese apparently and have a bit of a sweet tooth. My BMI is just about acceptable and I was pleased to be put in the "active" box in terms of levels of exercise and activity. Having recently given up smoking meant I was given lots of brownie points and encouragement, and perhaps forgiven more than I should have been for my level of alcohol consumption. So all good news and a reason for a smile as I walked home from the surgery on a Friday evening wondering how to reward myself.

But this MoT, helpful and well meaning as it was, misses the point. I am in the age bracket where suicide is the highest cause of death. As a result of the mental health problems I have had over the past years, my GP file ought to scream out to anyone that goes within a mile of it that the primary health issue for me is my mental health, and in particular depression and anxiety. And yet there was no mention of mental health at all, no questions about how I was feeling, how I was coping, or around common drivers or symptoms of poor mental health like sleep.

There are some basic questionnaires around that will flag up risks of many common mental health problems. There are also more sophisticated app based tests which will pick up deteriorating or sub normal cognitive functioning - often flagging possible degenerative conditions 10 or more years earlier than they might otherwise be diagnosed. These really ought to form part of an overall health check up worthy of the name. I am pleased to know that my bloods came back well but it feels a little like being told your car tyres are fine so crack on with your driving, when no-one has thought to look under the bonnet. It does get messy in there from time to time...