Dorset residents are among the least likely in the country to take up a free health check.

The system has performed so poorly in the county that it is now expected to be changed to improve uptake.

It was offered either through GP surgeries, or pharmacies – but both have only achieved a small percentage of the expected figures and Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole are all in the bottom ten per cent of 152 local authority areas with Dorset 141st, Bournemouth 148th and Poole 133rd.

Part of the problem appears to be in identifying who is eligible for the checks, according to a study being presented to the county’s joint public health board next week.

When the work was put out to tender in 2015 GP federations were successful in seven localities, and the pharmacy successful in six.

Latest figures show that only 3761 health check invites were sent out in the first quarter of this year in localities where GPs hold the contract, while in other areas where GPS do not hold the contract, only 554 were sent out.

A report by Sam Crowe, acting director for public health says: “ There have been long standing difficulties in some areas inviting eligible people to the programme particularly in areas served by the Pharmacy because they cannot access person-level data on the registered population held within primary care. This in turn has led to much poorer delivery than expected, due to difficulty inviting people to the programme.”

Councillors will be told at the September 24th meeting in Poole: “Current performance in Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole is below national expectations for the programme. There is a reputational risk from continued poor performance in providing a mandated public health service.”

Dorset currently has a £600,000 a year budget for the NHS Health checks programme.

In 2016/7 the programme across Dorset recorded 7,898 checks delivered overall and in 2017/8 there were 7,407 checks delivered. The Public Health England expectation for the financial year 2016/17 was to invite 46,456 people and deliver 23,228 checks, and for 2017/8 it was to invite 47,325 and deliver 23,663 checks.

Current information suggests that fewer than 5 per cent of people assessed after a health check are referred on to LiveWell Dorset (LWD) which offers advice and support to improve individual health and wellbeing.

The committee is being told that the best chance of improving the figures is likely to be awarding new contracts to GP practices, based on a negotiated fee, with a new programme getting underway this autumn.

But even this is thought unlikely to meet the target of up to 15,000 checks to be delivered each year – compared to the national expectation of 23,000 checks delivered each year.