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Community pharmacy pilot has UK hypertension first in its sights

Lifestyle / Thu 27th Sep 2018 at 01:10pm

Essex community pharmacy pilot has UK hypertension first in its sights (with pics)

PEOPLE in Harlow are being urged to have their blood pressure checked after almost one-in-four who have taken part in an ongoing pilot testing-service were found to be at risk.

www.npa.co.uk/heartbeats

The NPA said the most important thing is to get checked, regardless of the venue. However, it is encouraging those who can, to take part in the pilot that is being hosted in 10 Essex pharmacies.

Entitled Heartbeats on the High Street, the pilot will gather evidence for a national community pharmacy-led service to test and treat hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure.

Phase one is live now and consists of a free walk-in testing and advice service for the over 40s with those at-risk receiving lifestyle advice from a pharmacist or a referral to a GP.

Phase two, expected to launch next year, will allow people in Essex to be diagnosed and treated with prescription-only medicine direct from a pharmacist, easing pressure on overstretched GPs.

Leyla Hannbeck, NPA director of pharmacy, said it was early days for the pilot and while the initial findings were in line with expectations, they demonstrated the patient appetite for clinical services in community pharmacies.

She said: “Hypertension is one of the biggest risk factors for heart failure, stroke, chronic kidney disease, dementia and premature death.

“There are more than five million people in the UK who are unaware they have the condition, all ticking time bombs at risk of terrible health conditions.

“The good news is it’s fairly easy to monitor and treat, with diet and exercise and prescription medicines, but it takes up about 12% of all GP appointments and costs the NHS £2bn.

“With this pilot, testing and eventually treatment will be available in community pharmacies which are the most accessible part of the NHS, often seeing people out-of-hours often without an appointment.

“But this is just the start, community pharmacists are skilled clinicians who could do far more to manage long-term conditions and ease NHS pressures, with the right government support.”

The pilot scheme is being supported by the Essex Local Pharmaceutical Committee and Provide, which delivers community services on behalf of the NHS in East Anglia.

During phase one, exceptional readings will result in GP or even A&E referrals, but those with moderately high readings will be given ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) for 24 hours.

More commonly found in hospitals the devices are recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to meet the gold standard in accurate monitoring and diagnosis.

ABPM results will be referred to GPs, until phase two, when it is hoped community pharmacists will be able to routinely diagnose and treat hypertension for the first time in the UK.

During this phase, specially trained pharmacists will be able to supply patients diagnosed with hypertension, prescription only medicines, without the need to visit the GP for a prescription.

Both phases will also test for atrial fibrillation – a heart condition that significantly increases the risk of stroke and heart failure when left undiagnosed.

Tunde Sokoya is the owner of Easter Pharmacy, Buckhurst Hill, Essex, which is one of the ten pharmacies taking part. He said: “Two of my local GP surgeries are already referring some of their patients to me.

“When I told them about our service they thought it was great. Others are referring to Whipps Cross University Hospital, where they have a four-to-six weeks wait for ABPM.

“I had one gentleman come in who had been waiting two months and they cancelled the day he was supposed to have it. I managed to sort him out in a couple of days.”

Rakesh Bagga superintendent pharmacist from Metwest, in Harlow, said: “We are able to provide higher quality and more detailed data to GPs than ever before.

“To be able to spot and refer a patient with hypertension or AF will allow us to help support our patients and work even closer with our GPs.”

Metwest pharmacist Heena Vyas said: “Within a couple of days of the pilot launch, we had a patient who presented with symptoms of suspected AF.

“We immediately fitted the patient with a 24-hour ABPM machine. Fortunately, the results did not indicate AF but the lady was extremely grateful.

“We forwarded all the results to her GP, as outlined in the service specification, for review.

“The patient was left feeling reassured and grateful for the fast, valuable and easily accessible service the pharmacy were able to provide.”

Rajiv Sharma, from Great Berry Pharmacy, Basildon, said: “The patients I’ve seen so far have been delighted with the service.

“They already rated the service we provide highly but the hypertension service only raises that estimation.”

Visit for more information, including patient eligibility for the initiative and a list of participating pharmacies.

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