The Outreach NHS Health Checks team in Cornwall have been getting mud on their boots recently, carrying out health checks with farmers.

The team, which is part of the national free NHS Health Checks programme, has been targeting groups of people who traditionally keep their health problems to themselves and often only visit their doctor when symptoms are well advanced, making their conditions harder to treat successfully.

They have recently had great success setting up health checks with fishermen, and are now reaching out to farmers over the age of 40, with partners Mole Valley Farmers.

Paul Tippett, branch manager at their St Columb store, has provided a quiet space, with signage to draw in customers. So far, they have carried out 88 health checks over the past three months,with the next dates on August 12 at the St Columb store, and at the Camelford Show on August 13.

A Mole Valley Farmers said they want to support this Health Checks programme as being a farmer-owned business, they are aware of the pressure experienced by farmers running busy businesses and that often people will ignore health issues because of time constraints.

He said: "Having the opportunity to be able to take a range of health check tests in a relaxed environment and discuss the results with a professional is a really positive step and will hopefully reduce health issues and possibly save lives in the future.”

Mole Valley Farmers also invited the Outreach Team to share their stand at the Royal Cornwall Show. 30 checks were carried out for farmers and their families, and five people are being given support to improve their lifestyle, based on the results of the tests carried out.

The Health Checks examine several elements – height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol, which are used to calculate the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.

The check itself takes about 20 minutes and includes a discussion of the results and any steps which can be taken, for instance to reduce cholesterol or blood pressure. These conditions can often be prevented, even if there is a family history. In some cases the person may be advised to visit their GP if their results indicate more serious problems. This happens in around 11 per cent of Health Checks and is a measure of the success of the programme in reaching more people who traditionally don’t take their health problems to their doctors.

Jim McKenna, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Care, said: “‘Health Checks are an important part of the strategy to improve the health of people in Cornwall. Working together with Mole Valley Farmers in this way helps us to reach people who might otherwise not see a doctor until it’s too late, so we’re very pleased to promote this partnership.”

Felicity Owen, Director of Public Health, said: “‘Helping individuals to make good choices about their lives and health is an important part of the work of the Health Promotion Service, and improving people’s health and wellbeing in this way reduces cases of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.”

The Health Checks team will be at Mole Valley Farmers, St Columb on Tuesday 12 August, from 9am to 4pm, or you can catch them at the Camelford Show on Wednesday 13 August. Talks are also underway with Farm Cornwall, which is helping the team link with the cattle markets in both Liskeard and Truro, with a view to offering Health Checks at both sites.

For more information about Health Checks, see NHS Choices or call the Public Health Information Line – PHIL – on 01209 215666 or the Outreach Team on 01872 248584.