Chipping Norton councillor champions free health checks ‘which saved husband’s life’

Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles NNL-180821-145643001
Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles NNL-180821-145643001

A Chipping Norton councillor has a very personal reason for championing free health checks as she is adamant her husband’s life was saved by one.

Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles, the cabinet member for public health and education at Oxfordshire County Council, believes more people should go for an NHS Health Check.

Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles and her husband Jim. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-180821-145632001

Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles and her husband Jim. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-180821-145632001

Jim Hibbert-Biles received a routine letter inviting him to attend a free NHS Health Check, which checks for a range of cardiovascular conditions and health risks like diabetes, dementia, heart disease and stroke.

During his consultation, the clinicians carried out an additional test, which showed he had bladder cancer.

The check does not test for cancer, but the fact Jim went to his surgery in Shipton-under-Wychwood when invited and had a further test meant the disease was caught early. Jim, 77, has made a complete recovery.

“When I became cabinet member for public health it was something I wanted to boost,” she said.

Oxford United managing director Niall McWilliam gets an NHS Health Check alongside Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles (centre). Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-180821-145756001

Oxford United managing director Niall McWilliam gets an NHS Health Check alongside Cllr Hilary Hibbert-Biles (centre). Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-180821-145756001

“We have a problem with men who don’t go to the doctor to have a check. And I feel particularly aggrieved about that because of my husband.

“I know that had he not have gone the cancer would not have been caught and he might not be here today.

“So, I have a very personal reason to support the checks. But even before then I was keen on them. I am even more so now.”

It is not widely understood that the NHS Health Checks are a statutory service commissioned by the county council’s public health team.

The county’s public health team has a broad role from commissioning services to preventing disease and it works with a diverse range of partners from district councils to the NHS and community groups.

An example of this is commissioning full time school nurses to provide a public health agenda for every secondary school in the county – another one of Hilary’s causes that she brought in when she became cabinet member in 2013.

There are also a broad range of health campaigns too - from anti-smoking Stoptober to the annual flu immunisation programme for at-risk adults, the elderly and children.

The mum and proud grandmother of two added: “I think women are far more inclined to go for health checks, but men avoid it. I don’t know if it is because they are macho.

“When I was looking at how we could get more men involved I thought about Oxford United who, when I was chairman of the county council, were promoted a division.

“I held a reception for them and used to go quite often to watch them play after that. So, when I was thinking about how we could reach out and get more men involved I thought of their football matches.”

Hilary and the public health team have done mini-health checks a two Oxford United games – the latest in April this year where the U’s managing director Niall McWilliam was one of the 248 men to have their health assessed.

His test flagged up high blood pressure – meaning he was at greater risk of stroke or developing heart disease.

The awareness-raising exercise at the Kassam showed just one in ten supporters who took the check got a clean bill of health.

Eight in ten got an ‘amber’ rating and 10 per cent were shown the ‘red card’ – meaning a follow-up GP appointment was strongly advised.

Hilary is determined to get more people - especially men - aged between 40 and 74 to grasp the opportunity to have a personal ‘MOT’ once every five years.

People who have not already been diagnosed with a chronic condition should automatically receive an invite, otherwise you can call your GP to book one.

“It’s not an urgent matter, so if you cannot get an appointment in the next week, make one for three weeks or a month’s time and book yourself in. It’s a decision that could save your life,” she said.

For more information about the NHS Health Checks, visit www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/nhshealthcheck