Boots UK is offering customers over the age of 40 free blood pressure checks in store as part of an NHS initiative to tackle high rates of undiagnosed cardiovascular disease.

The multiple has launched the NHS blood pressure screening service at 650 of its stores in England to help detect and diagnose hypertension in patients who have previously not had a confirmed diagnosis. It plans to roll out the service to further stores across the country in the coming months.

NHS England and Improvement previously encouraged pharmacists to take a proactive role in delivering the hypertension service, which was commissioned as an advanced service on 1 October last year.

Boots pharmacy team members will recommend the service to patients who may be eligible. If their blood pressure is raised, they will be offered 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) through the fitting of a blood pressure cuff and monitor. The results will then be shared with the patient’s GP to help inform a diagnosis of hypertension and provide suitable treatment, if required.

As the second most common cause of premature death in England after cancer, cardiovascular disease affects seven million people and causes one in four premature deaths. The NHS Long Term Plan, aiming to improve care for patients over the next 10 years, hopes to prevent 150,000 heart attacks and strokes as result of cardiovascular disease.

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, said: ‘We are proud to support the NHS to deliver this important new service through our pharmacies. High blood pressure can cause serious health complications including heart attacks, heart disease and strokes, but rarely has noticeable symptoms.

‘People who are at greater risk of high blood pressure include older adults, those who are overweight, eat too much salt, don’t exercise enough, drink too much alcohol or caffeine, smoke, are of black African or black Caribbean descent or have a relative with high-blood pressure. Our pharmacy team members will recommend this free NHS service to eligible patients that can benefit from it.’

Boots UK, which has more than 2,200 stores and 51,000 employees, delivered a strong performance for the second quarter ended 28 February 2022, with a 3.6% increase in pharmacy sales compared to the second quarter of 2021 (almost 75% year on year) and 22% growth in comparable retail sales, with total sales growth of 15.2%. It described healthcare as one of its three ‘key transformation areas’.

However, in November 2021, Boots cut the pharmacy provision at 22 of its stores  and parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), the US retail giant which has owned Boots UK since 2012, is undergoing a strategic review of the business. WBA said its renewed priorities and strategic direction included a ‘greater focus on US healthcare’.

The Times reported earlier this year that WBA was seeking up to £7bn for the pharmacy chain, with some of the world’s largest private equity firms among the interested parties.

WBA sold its wholesaler arm, Alliance Healthcare, to US wholesale company AmerisourceBergen Corporation for $6.5bn (£5bn) last year, although Alliance Healthcare UK will remain the distribution partner of Boots UK until 2031 as part of the deal.

Meanwhile, McKesson UK, the parent company of LloydsPharmacy and wholesaler AAH, was acquired by private equity firm Aurelius Group earlier this month.