Everyone aged between 40 and 74 will be entitled to a health check every five years from 2012, the government has said.
The move by the Department of Health could have significant repercussions for occupational health (OH) professionals, with working-age adults possibly becoming better informed, but also potentially more worried about their health.
The programme, which will be enshrined in a new NHS Constitution, will offer people screening for heart disease, strokes, diabetes and kidney disease, among other problems.
People will also be offered a legal right to treatment within 18 weeks of referral by their GP, including the right to be seen by a specialist within two weeks if they have suspected cancer. If the NHS cannot respond this quickly, it will have to offer alternatives, including treatment at private hospitals, health secretary Andy Burnham has said.
Alongside this there will be a legal right to die at home, as well as a formal entitlement to NHS dentistry.
While the screening programme will not become a reality until 2012, the other “guarantees” will come into force from April next year.
However, the measures are first being put out to public consultation, which will run until February.
“In the next decade, the NHS must make a decisive move towards being a more preventative service and a more people-centred service,” said health secretary Andy Burnham.”So I want to give all patients aged 40 to 74 the legal right to have an NHS health check every five years.
“And we’re also seeking views on whether there should be a legal right in future to choose to die at home, and on personal health budgets to give people power over their own care,” he added.
But the British Medical Association warned that handing more NHS work over to the private sector would simply have a greater “destabilising effect” on the health service.
There was a danger of one group gaining access to treatment simply by the virtue of how long they have waited, leaving others who may in fact have more serious conditions with a longer wait in turn.