More pharmacies in England are set to offer on-the-spot heart checks. From October, pharmacies across the country will be providing free checks, including blood pressure and cholesterol tests.
The move is part of a broader plan to provide more services in the community and reduce pressure on GP surgeries and A&E departments. Initially, selected pharmacies will participate in the programme, but if feedback is positive, the scheme could be rolled out to include every pharmacy in England. Experts predict that the tests could save up to 150,000 lives over the course of the next decade.
The programme will be funded through a 5-year contract for community pharmacies, which is worth £13 billion. Some pharmacies have been offering the services for some time now, and staff have suggested that the tests are incredibly useful. Hundreds of pharmacies will be enrolled to begin with, and there are plans to make the scheme universal in the future. Pharmacy staff working in several areas, including Dudley, Lambeth and Southwark, and West Hampshire, have indicated that targeting patients with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, for example, those with atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure, has helped to free up GP appointments and improve patient care.
Prof Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, explained that heart attacks and strokes can cause sudden death and debilitating complications. On-the-spot high street checks can detect risk factors rapidly, enabling patients to get the treatment they need to reduce the risk of heart disease and unexpected symptoms. Prof Powis labelled the scheme as a “game-changer” and his sentiments were echoed by Simon Gillespie of the British Heart Foundation. Millions of people are unaware of the fact that they have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and a simple, quick, painless test could be all that is needed to help them make positive lifestyle choices and seek medical advice.
Community pharmacists have the knowledge and skills to be able to make a positive difference through schemes like high street health checks and giving them more responsibility could save thousands of lives in years to come.