Daiichi Sankyo and O’Brien’s Pharmacies Group have joined hands to offer a free Atrial Fibrillation (AF) check to over 65s in North West England. The collaborative project, jointly funded by both the companies, aims to support the local delivery of national ambitions to improve the detection of high-risk factor conditions for cardiovascular disease, in particular AF.
The heart rhythm checks will be made available in nine O’Brien’s Pharmacies across the region. The aim will be to identify potential patients with AF in conjunction with the existing NHS Health Check service via symptoms, pulse check and AF detection device.
Where AF is suspected, the pharmacist will provide patient support and then make a referral to the patient’s GP for further investigation and provision of appropriate treatment where required. The ambition is to demonstrate the important role that community pharmacist practitioners can perform in the delivery of this health service.
Additionally, the project supports the five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework to expand the role of pharmacists in the community, with a focus on detection and prevention of cardiovascular disease, and referral to treatment, in line with the NHS Long Term Plan objectives.
The NHS Long Term Plan commits to preventing 150,000 cardiovascular events by 2028, while helping to reduce the financial burden of stroke. Stroke and aftercare costs to the NHS and Social Care currently stand at approximately £0.5 billion in the North West alone.
Dr Mark Spencer, GP at Mount View Practice, Fleetwood, said: “This project is an example of how the unique contribution of community pharmacy can come together with general practice in the delivery of local health priorities. Effective detection of AF in the local area will also mean more people can learn about the condition and ultimately be better equipped to become active participants in its management.”
Lisa Cottam, Superintendent Pharmacist at O’Brien’s Pharmacies Group commented: “We encourage all patients over the age of 65 to visit their local O’Brien’s Pharmacy and speak to the pharmacist about their eligibility for a quick and easy check to detect an irregular heartbeat. With around 15,000 strokes every year in the North West, and a fifth of these accountable to AF, more needs to be done to detect and prevent the condition. We’re keen that this collaborative project will help to identify those with undiagnosed AF and ensure they can access the support and treatment they need from their GP in a timely manner, while driving conversation and awareness of cardiovascular conditions in the region.”
“Community pharmacies play a vital role in the improvement of public health and prevention, acting as the first point of contact with a healthcare professional in many people’s daily lives,” said Manuel Reiberg, Managing Director at Daiichi Sankyo UK.
“This project aligns closely with the NHS Long Term Plan ambitions, and the reach of pharmacies like O’Brien’s means they have an important part to play in reducing health inequalities in stroke prevention. We very much look forward to assessing the results and will continue to support initiatives that aim to improve timely detection and appropriate treatment of AF, which could ultimately save lives in the North West region.”
A key additional objective of the project is to help reduce health inequalities present in cardiovascular care, through greater accessibility of diagnostics in the community. Almost 90% of the population in England has access to a community pharmacy within a 20-minute walk, demonstrating the interwoven nature of pharmacies within local communities and their extensive reach to underserved groups, who may be less likely to visit their GP or another primary care service directly.
More than 23,000 people could be eligible for the AF checks, which will be available in all nine O’Brien’s Pharmacy outlets in Fleetwood, Thornton-Cleveleys, Bispham, Burscough, Liverpool and the surrounding areas. The project will run throughout 2022.