NHS rolls out free blood pressure tests to combat strokes

NHS rolls out free blood pressure tests to combat strokes
Courtesy: JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

Thousands of lives will be saved with free blood pressure checks across high street pharmacies, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) announced this week.

Every NHS pharmacy in England will be able to provide the checks to all adults aged 40 and over from October following a new deal between pharmacies and the NHS. Over the next five years, NHS said its estimates show that 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.

“It has been an extraordinary year for our pharmacy teams who have continued to ensure millions of people have access to medicines and health advice as well as playing a vital role in delivering the NHS Covid vaccination programme,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director.

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“More high street heart checks for blood pressure will mean more rapid detection of killer conditions and quicker treatment for patients who need it. 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,” he said.

Predictions in England also show that if 2.5 million people get their blood pressure (BP) checked in this way, an additional 250,000 people could receive lifesaving treatment for hypertension. The NHS began piloting the checks in 2019 with full rollout now starting from October this year.

“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,” said UK Health Minister Lord James Bethell.

“These new blood pressure clinics are just one example of the vital, life-saving check-ups pharmacies provide and will go a long way to helping prevent heart disease. I strongly encourage everyone to sign these services up when they come online from October,” he said.

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This action is described as the latest step to find thousands more people living with cardiovascular disease earlier and to prevent over 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases – a key part of the “NHS Long Term Plan”.

Under the BP initiative, 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 general practitioners (GPs) and other local services, to speed up access to care.

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