Community pharmacies have prevented 600 future heart attacks and strokes in the first year of a new blood pressure service, according to estimates by a pharmacy trade association.
The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) also suggested that with adequate investment, community pharmacy could become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for initial cardiovascular care and free up much-needed GP capacity.
The NHS Community Pharmacy Blood Pressure Check Service, which launched in October 2021, has carried out 590,000 checks, according to figures from the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA).
And of these, 44% were delivered in the 30% most deprived areas in England, where 10,000 cases of high blood pressure were identified.
Across England, the screenings identified over 25,000 people with high blood pressure, and the CCA used modelling from University College London to estimate that the 590,000 checks had prevented 600 future heart attacks and strokes.
The trade association suggested that by 2026, community pharmacy could deliver around 15 million blood pressure checks, identifying over 650,000 patients with high blood pressure and preventing up to 5,800 heart attacks and 8,800 strokes.
Chief executive of the CCA Malcolm Harrison said the sector ‘can, and should, play a huge role in the nation’s fight against cardiovascular disease’.
He said: ‘Investing in community pharmacy to become the first point of contact for cardiovascular disease is a sure-fire way of freeing up GP capacity, reversing health inequalities and ultimately saving lives’
John Maingay, director of policy and influencing at the British Heart Foundation said: ‘Local pharmacies are well placed to detect high blood pressure and help people receive appropriate care, while also relieving some of the immense pressure on GPs.’
The CCA recommended that over time, community pharmacy should become the default first point of contact for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention in primary care, eventually offering end-to-end care for thousands of patients with, or at-risk of, the disease.
CVD is the cause of one in four premature deaths and affects over 6 million people in England, according to NHS England.
However, the CCA expressed concerns that community pharmacy’s annual funding shortfall of over £67,000 per pharmacy would prevent the screening programme from reaching this potential.
Mr Harris said it was ‘time that the government and NHS invest in the tremendous potential of community pharmacy’ and that the funding model is ‘broken’ but ‘not beyond repair’.
The CCA also said that developing the hypertension service in community pharmacy would provide clinical roles in the sector for newly qualified Independent Prescribers (IPs) to use their skills.
Last month, Health and Social Care Select Committee chair Steve Brine said the committee had concluded ‘there was a great opportunity to better utilise the pharmacy workforce and in doing so, to optimise the workloads across primary care’ and ‘reduce pressure on general practice’.
The Spring Budget last month confirmed that the NHS Health Check, which includes a blood pressure check at the pharmacy or in the GP waiting room, will go digital.
The Government said this will ‘identify and prevent more cases of cardiovascular disease’, and the policy follows a pilot launched in Cornwall at the end of last year.
A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist.