Community pharmacies in England delivered a total of 149,865 blood pressure checks to over 40s in May 2023 – over double the 58,345 delivered in the same month last year.

This comes as the NHS announces a major drive to tackle cardiovascular health, with local projects offering blood pressure checks in non-healthcare settings such as barbershops, mosques and a dominoes club.

Initiatives include a mobile blood pressure service called ‘How’s Thi Ticker’ which travels to local communities in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and refers patients at risk of heart attack and stroke to pharmacists to manage their high blood pressure.

Dr David Crichton, chief medical officer at NHS South Yorkshire, said that the ‘joined-up’ and locally accessible services were what patients wanted and would help tackle health disparities.

‘This sort of approach, where we go out into our communities and connect with people who wouldn’t usually have their blood pressure checked, helps tackle health inequalities.

‘The teams make it easier for people to get tested, they give them confidence to ask any questions they have.’

He added: ‘When someone is referred to a local pharmacy, in their own neighbourhood, we know they’re more likely to attend and get the vital support and treatment they need.’

In Lambeth, NHS teams have collaborated with local community groups Black Thrive and MyCommunity Lambeth to offer blood pressure checks at a dominoes club in Brixton.

And a free community health check day last Saturday at Birmingham Central Mosque included blood pressure check services and lifestyle advice.

David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, commented: ‘The enormous expansion in the number of blood pressure checks delivered over the last year is thanks to the hard work of community pharmacies which have more than doubled the number of blood pressure checks delivered, and the innovation of local teams, going into the heart of communities with mobile sites that can visit places like barber shops and dominoes clubs.’

And he suggested that latest figures showed ‘teams are on track to prevent more than 1,300 heart attacks and strokes this year alone’.

He added that as the number of people living with major illnesses, including cardiovascular conditions, was ‘set to grow substantially over the coming years, it has never been more important to put in place preventative measures like easy to access blood pressure checks that can pick up the early signs and risks’.

And Professor Bola Owolabi, NHS director of healthcare inequalities, said that the latest figures ‘demonstrate the exceptional work being done by high street pharmacies to tackle health inequalities’.

She added that more than doubling the number of blood pressure checks in just a year ‘will undoubtedly have a significant effect on reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke for so many people’.

‘This is particularly important for those living in the most deprived areas and from ethnic minority backgrounds who we know are most at risk,’ she added.

And she praised innovative approaches to delivering healthcare at a community level.

‘This is also why it is so vital that we continue to strengthen the exceptional work being done by local NHS prevention and health inequalities teams who are constantly thinking of new, innovative ways to get right into the heart of our communities – whether it is the local church, mosque, community centre or a dominoes club - delivering blood pressure checks in the most convenient places to make it as easy as possible for people to check their risk,’ Professor Owolabi said.

Meanwhile, Tase Oputu, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England, praised the ‘outstanding work’ by community pharmacies on the hypertension service.

‘Conveniently located in the heart of communities they serve and highly trusted, pharmacy teams provide expert advice and services that address health inequalities on a daily basis,’ she said.