Wales politics

Online health check 'broken promise' claim on over-50s in Wales

Mouse and laptop
Image caption The over-50s will be offered health advice online

An offer of internet health checks to people aged over 50 by the Welsh government has prompted opposition accusations of a broken promise.

Conservatives claim there has been a "massive climbdown" on a manifesto commitment of examinations with GPs.

Labour pledged annual checks for the over-50s at the 2011 assembly election.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said research raised questions about the value of universal checks and this would allow something new to be tested.

In a statement, she said the health check programme would take an "innovative and holistic approach".

Online assessments and community-based support will allow the over-50s to assess and improve their health, she said.

Details on how the scheme will work will be developed by Public Health Wales and it will be introduced over three years, starting later this year.

People were increasingly going online to access services at a time and place that suits them, the minister said.

She added: "I have, therefore, decided it (the health checks programme) will be delivered primarily through an online service, which will offer people high quality advice on a range of health and social issues which can be personally tailored to their own circumstances, as well as improve access to the most effective national and local prevention services.

"The health checks programme will provide a modern gateway to prevention and health information services in Wales, which can help people over the age of 50 to make choices to support better health and wellbeing."


Those who cannot get online will be offered "alternative ways" of having a health check. Further details will be provided as the programme develops, Mrs Griffiths said.

Officials had looked at research evidence which "raised questions about the real value of universal 'health checks' based solely on a medical model and helped us design an approach which allows Wales to test something new".

About £740,000 has been set aside for the scheme in 2013-14 financial year.

But opposition parties pounced on the announcement.

In its manifesto, Labour said it would "instigate a programme of annual health checks, led by GPs, practice nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals, for everyone over the age of 50 over the next assembly term".

For the Conservatives, Darren Millar said: "This amounts to a massive climbdown from the health minister and another promise broken.

"This was a key Labour health policy in 2011 that committed this government to annual health checks with a GP for every person over 50.

"It's now clear it wasn't worth the paper it was written on."

Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones said she was sceptical that a website could take the place of a health professional.

"The announcement by the health minister is to all intents and purposes a U-turn on what the Labour Party committed to in its manifesto," she said.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: "Welsh Labour were very proud of this much trumpeted policy, but today we have found out it is merely another Welsh Labour pledge that it can't deliver on.

"To say this policy has been watered down would be putting it mildly."

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