As part of a plan to help prevent heart attacks and strokes pharmacies are going to offer free heart check-ups in an effort to detect signs earlier. More than 320 pharmacies will offer the service from next month after pilots proved successful.
Pharmacists will test for high-risk conditions that have not been diagnosed such as blood pressure, cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.High blood pressure, high cholesterol and irregular heartbeats – atrial fibrillation (AF) – are the conditions that most commonly cause heart disease and stroke and are linked to many cases of dementia.
Simon Gillespie, from the British Heart Foundation, said: “Millions of people in England are living with conditions such as high blood pressure which, if left untreated, significantly increase the risk of having a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke.
“Reaching more people and encouraging them to check their blood pressure, working with them to lower it where necessary, will play an absolutely critical role in saving lives in the coming years.
“Giving a greater role to community pharmacists in helping increase early detection of heart and circulatory diseases is a very welcome move that will help the NHS deliver its Long Term Plan commitment to prevent 100,000 heart attacks and strokes over the next 10 years.
“Once people are diagnosed with high blood pressure, raised cholesterol or atrial fibrillation, they can then be supported to manage their condition, which will reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke, and ultimately could save their life.”
NHS national medical director Prof Stephen Powis, England’s most senior doctor, said: “Heart disease and strokes dramatically cut short lives, and leave thousands of people disabled every year, so rapid detection of killer conditions through High Street heart checks will be a game-changer.
Reducing lifestyle risks and treating high-risk conditions such as smoking, obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity are key to preventing serious ill health, and the NHS long-term plan will help people take positive action for their own wellbeing, while investing in life-changing services, close to home, when ill health hits.”
Keith Ridge, the chief pharmaceutical officer of NHS England, said the plan would help to establish pharmacies across the country as local health hubs “where people can go for an ever-increasing range of clinical health checks and treatment”, and would make the most of the clinical skills of local pharmacists.
“The priority of the plan is to give the public convenient access to the healthcare, help and advice that they really want, which is why patients can now expect to benefit not just from continued excellence in medicines advice and help for common conditions from their pharmacist, but also from development of a range of new clinical services to tackle deadly diseases earlier on the frontline.”
People aged between 40 and 74 and who live in England are already routinely invited for free five-yearly health checks at some pharmacies as well as GP surgeries to spot early signs of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney problems or dementia.
If you are concerned about any of these conditions or simply have not had your blood pressure or cholesterol checked please contact your pharmacy even if it is not part of the service yet.