Health MOTs have come under fire yet again with Danish researchers warning they are not cost effective and could actually be more harmful than beneficial, a sentiment that seems to be echoed by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

In a letter to The Times, researchers from the Danish Cochrane centre have accused the government of pressing ahead with the health screening programme despite a lack of evidence to prove its benefit.

Last year, an analysis of data involving more than 182,000 patients found that health MOT's appeared to have no impact on either the number of overall deaths or those from cancer or heart disease.

This led researchers to conclude that systematic health checks are unlikely to be of benefit and should be "resisted", instead being offered only where a doctor is concerned about the patient, which caused the Danish government to reverse its plans for such a programme in the country.

Central arguments against their proposed value is the risk being diagnosed with diseases that wouldn't necessarily have induced any symptoms, and that the so-called 'worried well' will be take up a significant number of these checks, thereby diverting healthcare resources away from those who truly need them.

PharmaTimes was unable to reach the RCGP for comment this morning, but its chief Clare Gerada told BBC News that the healths checks "are not based on good evidence" and that they "are pulling in an awful lot of people who have nothing wrong with them. And the very people you would want to be dragging in do not attend."

Saving 650 lives a year?

However, in a statement, Public Health England stressed that NHS Health Checks are expected to prevent 1,600 heart attacks and strokes, at least 650 premature deaths, and over 4,000 new cases of diabetes each year. 

In addition, at least 20,000 cases of diabetes or kidney disease could be detected earlier allowing better management of disease and improved quality of life.

"We recognise that the programme is not supported by direct randomised controlled trial evidence, [but] there is nonetheless an urgent need to tackle the growing burden of disease which is associated with lifestyle behaviours and choices," it said.

Further arguing its case, PHE noted that all elements of the health checks "follow well recognised and evidenced clinical pathways approved by NICE and the existing relevant evidence, together with operational experience accruing on the ground, is compelling support for the programme".