The benefit of Health MOTs has been called into question after a study concluded that they do not actually decrease the risk of death from serious disease.

According to a review by researchers in Denmark, who looked a data from 14 trials involving more than 182,000 patients, so-called health MOT's appeared to have no impact on either the number of overall deaths or those from cancer or heart disease.

Since 2009, everyone in England falling in the 40-74 years age bracket is entitled to a free health check by their GP.

The scheme was considered a flagship symbol of a new focus on disease prevention, established to facilitate earlier detection of major illnesses such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. 

It has been estimated that Health MOTs could save around 650 lives and prevent 1,600 heart attacks in England every year, not to mention the potential benefit that preventing serious disease has in terms of alleviating pressure on healthcare resources.

'Resist' systematic checks

However, on the back of their findings, the researchers in Denmark conclude that systematic health checks are unlikely to be of benefit and should be "resisted", instead being offered only where a doctor has a suspicion/concern about the patient.

According to a Department of Health spokesperson: "Everyone having a health check is offered tailored advice and support to manage or reduce their risk of developing serious health conditions", the BBC reports.

But explaining their own observations, the researchers reason that the apparent lack of effect could be because doctors are already good at identifying patients at risk of developing disease, or maybe because those at the highest risk are simply not taking up the offer of a free health check. 

The findings were published in The Cochrane Library.