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Live long and prosper: Is this ultimate health MOT worth the investment?

21 July 2022 • Written by Sophia Wilson

As the saying goes “health is wealth” and Echelon Health promises to deliver this in the form of an assessment that can reduce the risk of premature death by more than 90 per cent. Sophia Wilson tests it out and speaks to the company’s founder, Dr Paul Jenkins, about why the future lies in preventative health care.

“Developing a disease is a combination of our lifestyle, our genes and just chance, but virtually all diseases can now be detected at early stage,” explains Dr Paul Jenkins, the founder Echelon Health. A frustration in seeing relatively young patients die of diseases that could have been detected inspired Dr Jenkins ­– who spent more than two decades researching the interactions between hormones and cancer – to create a a life-saving health assessment.

Echelon's CT scanner is the only one in London

Using a combination of CT and 3T MRI technology, ultrasound scans and blood analysis, Echelon’s Platinum Assessment can reduce the risk of premature death by 92 per cent in men and 95 per cent in women. Echelon utilises the latest technology on its clients – for example the firm’s Aquilion One Prism CT scanner is the only one in London – but what is more ground-breaking is the notion of harnessing medical knowledge and imaging equipment for preventative purposes. Dr Jenkins has seen the assessment save “dozens of lives” and believes he is now seeing a “culture shift” as people place a greater emphasis on preventative health.

“In this country we used to be very much stiff upper lip but in the last ten years there has been a marked swing in people’s attitudes knowing that there is effective prevention out there,” says Dr Jenkins. Dr Jenkins says this swing has become even more marked post the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have all been touched by mortality and thought about the preciousness of good health and being alive,” he adds.

Despite being in the “stiff upper lip” category I was intrigued to see this brave new world of wellness – which has been championed by chief executives, football club managers and even Sir Ben Ainslie – had to offer. An extensive medical questionnaire is filled out before the assessment, which usually takes place at its Harley Street Centre. A client liaison manager is on hand to talk you though the process beforehand and  meets you on the day to escort you through the scans and tests.

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The CT scanner is “unrivalled” for detecting coronary heart disease

A typical Platinum assessment – which can be spread over one or two days – would include blood tests, full mole screening, CT scans of the aorta, heart, chest, abdomen and pelvis, an MRI of the brain and a cerebral artery and cartoid angiogram, as well as ultrasounds of the neck, thyroids. A female assessment also includes digital mammogram and ovary ultrasound, while for men there is an MRI of the prostrate.

My programme was slightly tweaked – as I am a healthy under-40 CT scans are not recommended as there is low radiation exposure – but included the MRI, ultrasound, and blood work elements. It is safe to say that Echelon Health is a long way from the normal spa and wellness reviews I undertake at BOAT.

The assessment is of course unavoidably medical ­­– after all that is the point of it – but every stage of the programme is handled in a slick and professional manner. Having terrible veins, I tend to avoid blood tests at all costs but with the blood used to check everything from kidney and liver function to cancer markers I managed to brave the usual ordeal. “It’s a pretty general blood screen but in collaboration with the results of the scan, I can give a really focused and personal assessment of an individual’s health,” explains Dr Jenkins.

Echelon finds it's home in Harley Street, West London

For Echelon’s main client demographic ­– which tends to be from the mid-forties upwards ­– the advancement in CT scanners is a literal lifesaver. “With the original scanner, which my father was involved with over 50 years ago, it took to three hours to get a scan and a couple of days just generate a black pixilated image. Now the scans are done in just a minute or two, with incredible resolution,” says Dr Jenkins.

The CT scanner is “unrivalled” for detecting coronary heart disease. “It is the firming up of the coronary artery that causes a sudden heart attack,” explains Dr Jenkins. “For men of a certain age it is what we call the “widow maker” and until now nothing has been able to detect that. For cardiologists it’s a complete game changer.” The CT scanner is also highly valuable for lung cancer screening. “It you wait for lung cancer to be visible on a chest x-ray your five-year survival rate is around five per cent,” says Jenkins. “If you pick it upon a CT scanner, where it can pick it up at just a couple of millimetres, it will go up to around 90 per cent plus.”

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Dr Paul Jenkins is seeing "a culture shift towards preventative care"

Despite the professionalism of the staff a full day of testing will still take its toll and to soften the process Echelon has collaborated with the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Echelon recommends spending two nights at the hotel and will provide a chauffeur service to pick you up from home (within a 100-mile radius) and to transport you to and from the hotel. Looking out over Hyde Park, with the Household Cavalry horses exercising under a canopy of trees, the Mandarin Oriental provides a tranquil spot to recover. The hotel also boasts a vast subterrain spa – with an amethyst crystal steam room, samarium, vitality pool and a zen colour therapy relaxation area – so you can also opt for a more traditional wellness treatment while you are there.

Bar a few small bruises courtesy of my terrible veins, by the following morning there were no lasting impacts from the tests. The full results are normally delivered in a personal consultation by Dr Jenkins roughly a week after the assessment day. This allows time for the results to be reviewed by specialist radiologists and for a full report to be put together. Although, for any clients of a nervous disposition it is reassuring to know that any major health concerns would always be communicated within 24 hours.

Knowing that in previously symptomless patients the assessment has identified cancers and other underlying health issues it is still a slightly anxious wait. Thankfully, on this occasion I am given a clean bill of health, bar a slight vitamin D deficiency. As a mother of a young child not only does it alleviate any fears for now, but it also means I have a full record if any changes occur in years to come.

For those aged 40 and above, Dr Jenkins recommends going through the assessment every four years, interspersed by an abdominal scan every two years. “There's a balance between not scaring people too much, and making it too much of imposition, and doing what's medically appropriate and not missing anything,” he explains.

It might not be a traditional luxury but there is huge value in the service Echelon provide and preventative health looks set to grow. “I think more people will determine that it is good to get this type of health screening done and it will become more popular,’ says Dr Jenkins. “People are recognising that they need to look under the surface.”

The price for the Platinum Assessment is £12,000 for men and £11,500 for women. 

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