FARMERS in Devon are being encouraged to have a free NHS Health Check to minimise their risk of developing common lifestyle-related conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke and dementia.

The check is a free midlife ‘MOT’ for adults aged from 40 to 74 who don’t have an existing cardiovascular condition.

The check, which takes 20 to 30 minutes, involves a few simple questions and some straightforward tests to calculate your risk of developing serious but preventable illnesses.

Devon County Council is leading a pilot project aimed at increasing take-up of NHS Health Checks among farmers and other targeted groups.

By raising awareness now, it is hoped farmers will respond to NHS Health Check invitations in the future.

The checks are coming to Exeter Livestock Centre, Matford Park Road, on Friday 29 August and the council hopes to take them to other markets across the county.

Trained NHS staff from Health Promotion Devon (HPD), a specialist arm of the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, are carrying out the checks.

The Devon branch of the Farming Community Network and the hosts at Exeter Livestock Centre – Exeter City Council and Kivells Auctioneers – are also supporting the project.

Lynne Palmer, head of HPD, said: “Farmers can keep their health problems to themselves and only tend to visit their doctor when symptoms are well advanced, making their conditions harder to treat successfully.

“Farmers may well ignore health issues or put them on the back burner due to time constraints caused by the pressures of running a busy business.

“Taking these checks to them through Exeter Livestock Centre – and other markets in the future – will give us a great platform to reach out to farmers and help them take action to improve their chance of a longer, healthier and happier life.”

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for health and wellbeing, said: “NHS Health Checks are an important programme to improve the health of people in Devon and are offered every five years.

“We want to do everything we can to ensure people invited to NHS Health Checks attend.

“As we get older, we have a higher risk of developing dangerous conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. The good news is that these conditions can often be prevented.

“An NHS Health Check can spot early signs and help prevent these happening to you, which means you'll be more likely to enjoy a healthy life for longer.”

Joanne Jones, Devon co-ordinator for the Farming Community Network, said: “It is part of our mission to improve the health of farming families.

“Traditionally this has focused more on mental health, as farmers have the highest rate of depression and accidents by occupation in England.

“Health projects in markets around England have found high levels of health indicators outside of normal limits, and we are keen to address this here in Devon to help prevent illness among our farmers.

“This is coupled with farmers being poor at accessing health services compared to the rest of the population, due to the availability of GP appointments and their stoic nature.

“We welcome the project to take the NHS Health Check to the farmer and the opportunity to provide a more holistic service for farmers at Exeter Livestock Centre.”

Simon Alford, director at Kivells Auctioneers, said: “At Kivells we care greatly about our farmers and their welfare.

“The livestock market is the beating heart of the rural community and anything we can do to help improve the lives of our farmers, we will.”

NHS Health Checks will be available between 9am and 1pm next Friday.