With 1.2 million people visiting a community pharmacy every day, pharmacists have the potential to intervene in a wide range of blood pressure (BP) conditions, including hypertension.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates that there are around seven million people in the UK living with undiagnosed high BP.

National Pharmacy Association chairman (NPA) Ian Strachan says that ‘if one pharmacy was doing one BP check a day, it would provide an extra three million screenings a year to the country’.

He continues: ‘Through these three-million screenings, we could reduce the number of strokes and myocardial infarction by 40% and heart failure by 50%.

‘We’ve got to support GPs and doctors to take that little workload from them in an integrated way’.

Opportunity to identify hypertension

In January, the BHF awarded Champs Public Health a £100,000 grant to be used to develop an initiative to detect new cases of hypertension in fire and rescue services, digital kiosks, a digital conversational tool and Healthy Living Pharmacies (HLPs) in Cheshire and Merseyside (C&M).

Kicking off in January 2017 and running until March 2019, 120 HLPs were chosen and provided with training as well as equipment to take a new approach for screening measurements for adults over the age of 18 who aren’t receiving treatment for high BP.

Chair of Pharmacy Local Professional Network (LPN) Hassan Argomandkhah says that the project was created to ‘prove that community pharmacy can make that difference’.

Official data suggests that between 50% and 80% of people with high BP do not take all of their prescribed medicines and that adherence with lifestyle changes is between 13% and 76%.

But Mr Argomandkhah argues that pharmacists can help these people to manage their condition ‘through initiation, monitoring and medicine optimisation’ as well as supporting patients to have healthy lifestyles – which reduce complications from high blood pressure.

He continues: ‘If a person is already being treated and their treatment is optimised then just taking the blood pressure wouldn’t have an impact on that.

‘There are people walking around who don’t know their blood pressure is raised, which can damage their kidneys and lead to a stroke.

‘The project is an opportunity to identify people who have never had their BP taken, aren’t on treatment or have rising blood pressure and don’t know about and signpost them to get appropriate intervention.

‘Poor evidence’

A 2014 study showed that pharmacists’ interventions, alone or in collaboration with other healthcare professionals, improve BP management.

Mr Argomandkhah says that the ‘evidence is very poor in what community pharmacy is able to do’.

He adds: ‘We’re very good at guessing that what we do is good but we need solid evidence.’

All the data from the C&M pilot will be collected by PharmaOutcomes, who will then put a report together to ensure data can be accessed and analysed for research.