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Pharmacies give over 30,000 blood pressure checks every week
A new survey of community pharmacies reveals the central role they play in tackling the UK’s blood pressure epidemic, and shows their potential to improve the Nation’s health even more
This February, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) released the results of a survey of all its member pharmacy companies looking at their blood pressure services and support. The week-long audit showed that pharmacists are home to 220 000 conversations about blood pressure every week, demonstrating the role they play in taking on high blood pressure nationally. The CCA are now calling for funding and forward-planning to make the most of the role of pharmacies in the community to prevent serious illnesses.
In the summer and autumn of 2017, CCA audited over 5,000 of its member pharmacies, including Asda, Boots, LloydsPharmacy, Morrisons, Rowlands Pharmacy, Superdrug and Well. In just one week:
- over 220 000 people discussed their blood pressure in a pharmacy
- 30,000 people had their blood pressure measured
- one in three had pre-high blood pressure and one in five had high blood pressure.
- 9,000 people were referred on to their GP giving them a chance to discuss treatments and lifestyle changes.
The total number of people with high blood pressure is lower than you might expect as around one in three UK adults have high blood pressure, but this could be because many of the people tested were already having treatment for high blood pressure.
The audit was planned after Pharmacy Voice, an organisation which represents community pharmacies across the UK, released a report setting out how pharmacies can take on a bigger role in preventing and treating high blood pressure. One of the key recommendations was that: “current community pharmacy practice in relation to blood pressure prevention, testing, diagnosis and management is audited”.
The results suggest that over a year, pharmacies talk to 2.5 million people who have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Their position in the community means they are uniquely placed both to help find people who don’t know they have raised blood pressure, and improve the care of those who do.
The survey revealed some areas where pharmacies can improve their services. For example:
- Around a third (31%) don’t have blood pressure monitors which could be used in a face to face chat, which is an ideal gateway to a discussion about blood pressure.
- Nearly half (48%) of teams don’t know if their monitors were equipped to measure atrial fibrillation. A type of irregular heart beat which can lead to stroke, especially if you have high blood pressure as well.
The CCA believe that pharmacies can do more to detect high blood pressure if they are better commissioned to provide such checks. They would like to make improvements to their services such as:
- developing better online sharing of data with GPs, making follow-up care more efficient and effective
- more training for staff to include knowledge of atrial fibrillation
- more independent prescribers to ease pressure on GPs.
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive of the CCA, said: “This audit shows how community pharmacies are already helping to improve the cardiovascular health of the people and patients they serve. It is particularly encouraging that thousands of people with high or pre-high blood pressure have been discovered and referred onwards appropriately.”
Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK commented: “The number of people who were able to discuss their blood pressure and have a blood pressure check is both impressive and encouraging. It would have cost the NHS a huge amount of money to provide this service, and the role pharmacists can take in improving people’s blood pressure and health in the UK is invaluable.”