Two thousand lives could be saved and thousands of strokes and heart attacks prevented as life-saving blood pressure checks are made available in high street pharmacies, health officials have said.
The service will be offered to people aged 40 and over in all NHS chemists in England from October.
NHS England said estimates show that 3,700 strokes and 2,500 heart attacks could be prevented and around 2,000 lives saved in the next five years by the full rollout.
If around 2.5 million people get their blood pressure checked in this way, it is estimated that an extra 250,000 people could receive life-saving treatment for hypertension.
More of these checks, which were piloted in autumn 2019, will mean “more rapid detection of killer conditions and quicker treatment for patients who need it”, said NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis.
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.”
The new deal will see pharmacists offer blood pressure tests to people showing symptoms, giving clinical and lifestyle advice and recording the information in a process hoped to speed up access to care by joining up services and treatment with GPs and other local services.
As part of the new contract with the NHS, local chemists will also play a part in services to help smokers quit, by offering advice and care to those who have recently come out of hospital.
Dr Shahed Ahmad, national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention, said community pharmacists are “ideally placed to deliver this life-saving work”.
Dr Ahmad said: “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.”
John Maingay, director of policy and influencing at the British Heart Foundation, said the move is “a brilliant initiative that will help to save lives, prevent heart and circulatory diseases, and empower people to make healthier lifestyle choices”.
He said: “We estimate that there are up to 4.8 million people in the UK living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and most people don’t know they have it until they get it measured by a healthcare professional.
“It often doesn’t present any symptoms, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a silent killer, so it’s important that you get your blood pressure checked – especially if you have a family history of heart and circulatory disease.
“That’s why community pharmacists are perfectly placed to help people in their local areas to diagnose and treat people with high blood pressure.”