With a new deal, all NHS pharmacies in England will be able to offer blood pressure checks to people aged 40 and over from October, saving thousands of lives.
As per government estimates, over the next five years 3,700 strokes and 2,500 heart attacks could be prevented as a result of the tests and around 2,000 lives could be saved.
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, and the full rollout will start from October this year.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said the checks will result in “more rapid detection of killer conditions and quicker treatment for patients who need it”.
He added: “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.”
Under the deal, 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.
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.
Besides, patients will receive support sessions over 12 weeks with a trained member of the pharmacy team.
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.”
He suggested that everyone should sign up for these services when they come online from October.
Dr Shahed Ahmad, national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention, said community pharmacists are “ideally placed to deliver this life-saving work”.
He added: “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.”
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.”
Pharmacist Helen Williams, who’s the 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.”