(fashion) High street pharmacists are to offer shoppers on-the-spot health checks as part of an NHS drive to cut heart disease.
NHS bosses announced last night that free blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests and mobile heart scans will be offered in pharmacies from October.
The announcement – timed to coincide with the world’s largest meeting of cardiologists which is taking place in Paris this week – is part of an NHS plan to prevent 150,000 heart attacks and strokes within a decade.
Experts speaking at the European Society of Cardiology congress said the new approach will help reach the millions who are at risk yet rarely go to their GP so have no idea of the danger.
Pharmacists will be encouraged to offer the checks to customers – although it will be up to them who they target.
As well as handing out prescriptions pharmacists will also offer free health checks from October
Consultant cardiologist Professor Kazem Rahimi, of Oxford University, yesterday presented a study which showed that people with high blood pressure in middle age are at significantly higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke in later life.
At age 40, for example, every 20-point increase in blood pressure raises the risk of an attack in the next eight years by 18 per cent. Yet one in eight adults – about 5.5million in England alone – have no idea they have high blood pressure. Millions more are thought to be living with high cholesterol and abnormal heart rhythms, which also increase the risk of heart disease.
Professor Rahimi said: ‘Testing people through pharmacies is a really good approach. If you can reach people who don’t tend to go to their GPs, you are likely to identify a large number of people who will need intervention who wouldn’t be picked up otherwise.’
Officials said the scheme would help identify risks far earlier – enabling patients to be offered targeted medication.
Pilot schemes have seen some types of strokes fall by a quarter, they said.
Chemists will begin offering the NHS ‘rapid detection service’ from October, including mobile electrocardiograms to spot irregular heartbeats, as well as blood pressure checks and instant finger-prick cholesterol tests.
If successful, the scheme will be extended to every pharmacist in the country within three years.
If the tests show someone is at risk, pharmacists will be expected to give advice on exercise and diet, with results passed directly to GPs, who can prescribe medication.
The checks are part of a £13billion five-year contract for community pharmacists which aims to expand their roles and take pressure off GPs.
The plans follow Government proposals to scrap ‘one size fits all’ health MOTs at GP surgeries
England’s top doctor Professor Stephen Powis – the medical director of NHS England – said: ‘Heart disease and strokes dramatically cut short lives, and leave thousands of people disabled every year, so rapid detection of killer conditions through high-street heart