High Street heart checks on the NHS

NHS England has announced that pharmacists are set to offer rapid detection and help for killer conditions like heart disease as part of a major revamp of high street pharmacy services. This forms part of an ambitious target the NHS in England has set itself as part of its Long Term Plan to prevent tens of thousands of strokes and heart attacks over the next ten years.

Plans are underway for both GPs and community pharmacists to lead the fight against common conditions that cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke, building on successful pilots which have reduced strokes by a quarter.

General practices will identify those at risk and optimise treatment in people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and irregular heart rhythms – called Atrial Fibrillation (AF) – all high risk conditions that that most commonly cause heart disease and stroke, as well as many cases of dementia.

And from October 1st, as part of their new £13 billion five-year contract, community pharmacists will start to develop and test an early detection service to identify people who may have undiagnosed high-risk conditions like high blood pressure for referral for further testing and treatment. If successful this could be rolled out to all community pharmacies in 2021-22.

This announcement is supportive of the innovative BP+ service launched by Surrey Heartlands in April 2019. Working in partnership with Community Pharmacy Surrey & Sussex (CPSS), 20 pharmacies in Surrey Heartlands have been offering short (10-15mins) BP+ checks, with a focus on detecting people with high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. More than 2000 people have attended a BP+ session, which also includes a discussion about the changeable factors that influence the risk of cardiovascular disease, with six patients actively diagnosed with atrial fibrillation as a result.

Accelerating prevention of life-threatening illness such as heart attack and stroke is central to the NHS Long Term Plan and, in addition to a substantial commitment to tackle obesity, alcohol dependence and smoking, the blueprint for the health service outlines an ambition to tackle CVD, affecting six million people and accounting for a quarter of deaths in England and costing the NHS £7 billion a year.