Purvi Barchha, superintendent pharmacist at FT Taylor Pharmacy in Watford, talks to Saša Janković about setting up a life-changing blood pressure check service.

Service type: Blood pressure check service.

Name and location of pharmacy: FT Taylor Pharmacy, Watford.

Name of superintendent pharmacist: Purvi Barchha.

Why did you start offering this service?

We started offering this service in March 2019. We were approached by our local authority to see if we wanted to be involved because they noticed there was a gap in the community for this kind of service. Hypertension has no symptoms and people don’t know they have it until they get checked, so of course we said yes, went for the training, were provided with blood pressure testing machines and we were good to go.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

Nothing. Our local authority organised the training, and Sigma Pharmaceuticals is local to us and offered their BP machines to us for free for the initial set up – although it is now up to us to keep these calibrated.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?

I did the main training myself and came back and trained up the rest of my staff to offer the service. Having all our staff trained to do this is the best way to get as many people as possible in the door and tested.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

It’s a blood pressure check service that aims to identify peoplewho are not already on medication for hypertension but who may have high blood pressure. The specifications of the service mean we can only offer customers the check if they meet certain criteria: they can’t have had a blood pressure check in the last year (even one they might have done at home), they must have no previous diagnosis with high blood pressure, and they must not be pregnant. If they are over 18 and meet these criteria then they qualify for the service.

If their blood pressure is high then they can come back to us for a second check a month later, and if it’s still high then we will refer them on to their GP. And of course if their BP is dangerously high at any check we will send them straight to their GP.

We find the appropriate patients for the initial check simply by asking everyone who comes into the pharmacy if they have had a blood pressure check in the last year, or if they currently take any blood pressure medication (they are not eligible for the check if they do). Similarly, while we are dispensing prescriptions we can tell if the patient is on BP tablets, and if not we mark it on the bag so the counter staff can flag the check to them when they collect their medication. Mostly they don’t say no as it’s only a five-minute job and it’s free.

Once we start talking to people while we are carrying out the check they open up to us, so we can offer lifestyle advice about diet or exercise, alcohol and smoking, and refer them on for anything else where necessary.

Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?

If we identify a high BP patient the GP may recommend they monitor their own blood pressure for a week or two before they initiate them onto the tablets, so they may come back to us as we sell BP monitors for home use.

How have patients responded to the service?

When the check highlights an issue, people are grateful. In the first year of offering the service – before the pandemic – we identified about 10 patients who were fairly young who had high blood pressure, and they started on medication just from that check, which could easily be a lifesaving intervention.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

We saw about 50 people a month at the start, although it tails off over time because there’s only a finite number of customers we can offer it to.

How much do you charge for the service?

It’s free for the patient.

Roughly how much a month do you make from offering the service?

We are paid £7.50 per patient, by Herts County Council, and then an additional £5 for the second check.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes – it’s simple and yet life changing. I saw the results from the checks that we did and it’s quite scary when you think about it, as we are only a small pharmacy covering a small area. Covid has put the service on hold so we are not promoting it right now – although if someone comes in to ask for it because the GP is shut then I will talk them through how to test themselves in our consultation room – but I definitely hope to make this available again as soon as we can.

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