Everyone in England aged between 40 and 74 is to be offered five-yearly health checks to see if they are at risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
The NHS scheme will assess more than two million people a year, and is billed as having the potential to prevent 1,600 heart attacks and strokes and save 650 lives annually.
The Department of Health has said that the scheme will be in place within four years, and will include questions about diet, lifestyle and family medical history.
The checks, which 15 million 40–74-year-olds will be able to have in GP surgeries, health centres, walk-in centres or pharmacies, will reflect the needs of the local population.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "The national programme of health checks could save 650 lives a year and reduce the health inequalities that blight the lives of the country's most deprived families.
"Screening of all relevant elective patients for MRSA before admission is an additional preventative measure that will help to protect patients against infection, and also, free prescriptions for people living with cancer and related conditions is one less worry for them at such a difficult time and will be welcomed by many patients and their families."