Free blood pressure checks at pharmacies could save more than 4,000 lives, NHS leaders say.
Officials began rolling out the checks for those aged 40 and over in October. They predict 5.5million people will take up the offer by 2025, with 550,000 likely to need treatment for high blood pressure.
NHS England said the initiative could prevent 5,500 heart attacks, 8,140 strokes and save 4,400 over the next five years.
Checks are available at 8,423 stores across England on a walk-in basis. Chemists are paid up to £45 for each reading they take, with results sent to GPs to review.
NHS officials began rolling out the checks for those aged 40 and over in October
Dr Shahed Ahmad, NHS England’s national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention, said the ‘quick and straightforward’ tests ‘could add years to your life’.
Dr Ahmad said: ‘By providing blood pressure checks on the high street, the NHS is making it easier than ever before for people with high blood pressure to be identified and treated earlier, helping people live healthy lives for longer.
‘Getting checked at your local pharmacy is quick and straightforward, and could add years to your life by getting the treatment or medication you need earlier, so if you’re eligible please do take up your free test soon.’
The checks follow ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to prevent more than 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases.
Dr Ahmed added: ‘This is just one of a range of NHS initiatives designed to achieve our Long Term Plan ambitions of saving thousands more lives from the major killer conditions, and empowering ever more people to take control of their own health.’
Community pharmacists can offer blood pressure checks to anyone aged 40 and over who has not previously had a confirmed diagnosis of high blood pressure.
When levels are found to be elevated, patients will be referred to a GP or another healthcare professional, and given lifestyle advice.
Pilot schemes have seen patients with hypertension offered appointments with a social prescriber who can prescribe fitness classes, or help with cookery or mental health issues.
It comes amid concern that heart deaths have risen since the pandemic, after patients stayed away from GPs for fear of being a burden, or struggled to access care.
Figures for excess deaths from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show around 1,000 more people than usual dying each week from conditions other than covid, with experts warning that the trend has been fuelled by rising levels of heart disease and diabetes.
Checks are available at 8,423 pharmacies across England on a walk-in basis. Chemists are paid up to £45 for each reading they take, with results sent to GPs to review
Charlotte Nicholls, head of policy at the Stroke Association, said: ‘We’re pleased that so many people are taking advantage of high street blood pressure checks.
‘Something this simple really does save lives.’ John Maingay, Director of Policy and Influencing at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘It’s very encouraging that so many people have had their blood pressure checked thanks to this initiative – I have no doubt this will save lives.
‘By helping to prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes, such programmes play a vital role in easing the enormous pressure on the NHS.
‘High blood pressure is a silent killer. It doesn’t usually present any symptoms, and significantly raises the risk of a life-threatening heart attack or stroke.
‘An estimated 4.8 million people are unknowingly living with high blood pressure, so we urge everyone to take up these free checks at their local pharmacy. It only takes five minutes, and it could prevent heart problems later down the line.’