THE Big Bolton Health Check — a campaign led by The Bolton News — has been praised by national health chiefs for having one of the best take-up rates in the country.

More than 80 per cent of Bolton people over 40 offered the health check took up the offer last year — making it the fifth best area for take-up of such a scheme in the UK.

The success is largely due to the pioneering Big Bolton Health Check in 2008.

The Bolton News joined forces with GP Dr Stephen Liversedge to identify people over the age of 45 at risk of heart disease.

The 10-minute checks were carried out everywhere from GP surgeries to community events and people’s homes to pubs, shops and churches.

As a result, 2,049 people were shown to have high blood pressure and emergency hospital admissions because of heart attacks were halved as a result of the early diagnoses.

The success of the Big Bolton Health Check saw similar schemes rolled out nationally by the NHS to identify people at risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke or kidney disease.

Dr Liversedge, clinical director for primary care and health improvement at the Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, said the Bolton programme was the first of its kind.

He added: “I am very pleased these new figures show Bolton as one of the best areas in the country for take-up of NHS health checks. This is great news for the health of our borough.

“Of course, Bolton is a real pioneer in this area as we were the first to do this on a large scale in the form of the Big Bolton Health Check.

“We had an amazing response to this initiative back in 2008 and it was largely down to The Bolton News championing this campaign that we were able to reach so many people.

“Since then, the Bolton CCG has built on the achievements of our predecessor organisation, the Bolton Primary Care Trust, by working with GP practices to focus on prevention, identifying people at risk of developing long-term conditions, and supporting them to change their lifestyle and to help improve their health.”

The national NHS check now includes two additional elements — an alcohol risk assessment and, for people aged 65 to 74, awareness raising on dementia.

Jane Ellison, Public Health Minister, said: “I am delighted to see more people than ever taking up the offer of a free NHS health check.

“These checks have a major part to play in early prevention of disease. They are an important step for many people towards improving their health and becoming more aware of how they can lead a healthier life.

“I urge everyone who is offered an NHS health check to take up the offer.”

A total of 1,382,864 people in England had an NHS health check between April, 2013, and April, 2014. This figure represented a 9.5 per cent increase when compared to the previous year.