The NHS is rolling out Free heart checks at high street chemists to help save thousands of lives.
From October every NHS pharmacy in England will be able to provide lifesaving blood pressure checks to people aged 40 and over.
According to NHS estimates, 3,700 strokes and 2,500 heart attacks could be prevented by having these tests and about 2,000 lives could be saved over the next five years.
Predictions also show that if 2.5 million people get their blood pressure checked in this way, an additional 250,000 people could receive lifesaving treatment for hypertension.
The NHS began piloting the checks in autumn 2019 with full rollout now starting from October this year.
This action is the latest step to find thousands more people living with cardiovascular disease earlier and to prevent over 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases – a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Pharmacists will case-find and offer blood pressure tests to people showing symptoms, provide clinical and lifestyle advice or referral, and record the data, joining up services and treatment with GPs and other local services, to speed up access to care.
As part of the new contract, local chemists will also play a part in NHS smoking cessation services by offering advice and care to smokers who have recently been discharged from hospital. Patients will be able to receive support sessions over 12 weeks with a trained member of the pharmacy team.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director said: “It has been an extraordinary year for our pharmacy teams who have continued to ensure millions of people have access to medicines and health advice as well as playing a vital role in delivering the NHS COVID vaccination programme.
“More high street heart checks for blood pressure will mean more rapid detection of killer conditions and quicker treatment for patients who need it.
“Pharmacies are in the heart of communities and so they are ideally placed to provide these convenient checks so if you are worried about your health, please do get tested – it could save your life.
“The NHS Long Term Plan aims to crack down on killer conditions and this action by pharmacy teams will go a long way in helping us achieve our ambitions of saving more lives.”
Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “I want to say a huge thank you to pharmacists for their hard work and commitment to delivering more services to their patients, helping support a healthy nation.
“Pharmacists are the first port of call for minor conditions and it is really encouraging to see even more health services being led from pharmacies, many of which are at the heart of local communities and easy to access.
“These new blood pressure clinics are just one example of the vital, life-saving check-ups pharmacies provide and will go a long way to helping prevent heart disease. I strongly encourage everyone to sign these services up when they come online from October.”
Dr Shahed Ahmad, National Clinical Director for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention said: “Cardiovascular disease claims 136,000 lives a year and is a major cause of health inequalities with about half of heart attacks and strokes are associated with high blood pressure.
“The detection and control of high blood pressure is one of the best things we can do to save lives and reduce health inequalities. Community pharmacists are ideally placed to deliver this life saving work and I am delighted they are now offering blood pressure checks.”
Helen Williams, National Specialty Adviser for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “As a pharmacist, I am delighted that this service is being rolled out across England. Community pharmacies are ideally placed to deliver blood pressure checks, being accessible within local communities and regularly used by most adults.
“This service will enable people with high blood pressure to be identified and treated early and will encourage conversations about lifestyle change to help people live healthy lives for longer.”
Dr Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at NHS England, said: “Pharmacy teams have already played an important part in the NHS COVID vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in the health service’s history, and – with this new service being rolled out across the country – they will have a vital new role in delivering life-saving blood-pressure checks in the heart of our communities.”
The roll-out of these services is part of the 2021/22 community pharmacy contractual framework covering England’s pharmacies which has been announced today, agreed by NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).