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A HARLOW man’s life has been saved after he decided to take advantage of a free NHS health check while out shopping.

As part of the free check, it was revealed 59-year-old Martin Harvey had a very low pulse rate. The nurse from community healthcare provider, Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE), the organisation commissioned to provide the mobile health checks, said Martin should see his GP without delay. His GP sent him to hospital where a consultant said if he didn’t have a pacemaker fitted promptly, he wouldn’t see his next birthday.

A bemused but very grateful Martin said this week: “It was quite unbelievable really. I went shopping with my wife to Tesco and saw the ACE mobile health check unit. I said to my wife, "Shall I have a check?", but we carried on with the shopping instead. When we finished, I changed my mind and decided to have a check.

“The nurse checked my pulse and asked me if I felt OK. She did a couple of other tests and said my heart rate was so low I could have been Usain Bolt. She suggested I go straight to see my GP. I was surprised. I felt physically fit for my age, albeit I did get tired by the end of the day. I’m a caretaker so my work is reasonably physical. Anyway, I saw my GP and he made an immediate appointment for me to see a hospital specialist.

“He said he wanted to give me a pacemaker and that I wouldn’t make my next birthday if we didn’t do it straight away. Every time I had an ECG, my pulse rate was dropping. Within four weeks of my health check the operation was done. I was off work for three months but I’m now back and feeling great.

“If I hadn’t decided to take advantage of that free NHS health check, I wouldn’t be here today. That check was the best 15 minutes I’ve ever invested and I’d certainly recommend anyone to have that check. It’s free so what have you got to lose. As it turned out, I had my life to gain!” said Martin.

Last year, ACE delivered more than 3,000 free NHS health checks across west Essex from its mobile unit. Staff target people between the ages of 40 and 74 who, broadly, are not already identified by a health professional as having had a heart attack, stroke, angina or diabetes. They should also not be on medicines for high cholesterol or high blood pressure as these people have already been screened by their GP and are being monitored regularly.

The check includes measurement of blood cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index and waist measurement. A risk calculation is carried out and personalised advice offered about how to stay healthy. All results are given to people at the time of their health check screen as well as shared with their GP practice.

Kerry-may Surtees, Integrated Care Manager for Health and Wellbeing at ACE, said: “The check assesses your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease or diabetes. By taking early action, people can improve their health and make lifestyle changes to help prevent the onset of these conditions.

“Martin’s case shows just how important the check is. I would urge anyone eligible for the check to spare a few minutes out of their day and take advantage of something which might just be a life-saver.”

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