Pharmacists and other vaccination services and clinics could be expected to undertake health checks of patients alongside their vaccinations, the NHS chief operating officer has said.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference, NHS chief operating officer, Amanda Pritchard said the NHS would make ‘every contact count’ by completing health checks when patients already have appointments booked.
This will include a range of targeted tests, including blood pressure, heart-rhythm and cholesterol checks when people have appointments for Covid jabs or flu vaccinations in the autumn.
The aim of the service would be to catch early signs of strokes and heart attacks to try and save lives.
The NHS said the details, including whether the service would be funded, were not yet worked out. However, NHS England confirmed it will be up to local services to take this on.
Ms Pritchard, said: ‘The NHS is not just a sickness service but a health service which is why we want to make every contact count, using every opportunity to keep people well rather than just seeking to make them better.
‘We want to offer a fully integrated care system, where we can reach out to people in the communities they live in – not just diagnosing and treating conditions, but working in partnership with the public and intervening before advanced disease occurs, keeping people healthy and well.’
She added: ’The hugely successful NHS vaccine programme has given us the opportunity to make every contact count by going out into peoples’ communities to beat coronavirus while also catching other killer conditions.
‘The checks – like the jabs – will be available in convenient locations in local communities including village halls, churches, mosques and local sports centres and prevent people becoming seriously ill.’
Some pharmacists have already been offering on-the-spot heat checks to identify patients at risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke as part of a pilot scheme.
The plan is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which has aimed to prevent 150,000 strokes and heart attacks over the next 10 years by improving the treatment of high risk conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.
Claire Anderson, chair of RPS England, said: ‘This is a welcome recognition of how pharmacists will be central to delivering the NHS Long-Term Plan.
‘Pharmacists are often visited by people who do not see their GP, so health MOTs are a great way for pharmacists to use their expertise to discover undiagnosed illnesses.
‘As the NHS looks to recovery, we’d want to see additional services commissioned to make best use of pharmacists’ clinical skills.’
Mark Lyonette, chief executive at the National Pharmacy Association said: ‘We don’t yet have the details, but it makes sense for pharmacies to be part of any new initiatives to monitor heart health and cholesterol, given how accessible they are and their proven track-record in preventative care.
‘It looks like a chance to identify underlying health problems which may have been missed during the coronavirus lockdown, and highlights the important role pharmacies will have in the nation’s post-pandemic re-set.
‘We hope it’s not a one-off scheme limited to a select few pharmacies, but something that can be scaled to turbo-charge access to cardiac support through community pharmacy.’
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, added: ‘We need services to be appropriately funded to allow for relevant workforce to be dedicated to delivering these services. In addition, regulatory burden will need to be eased and our pharmacists should be empowered to delegate delivery of relevant services to an appropriately trained member of staff under their supervision.’
However, a study earlier this year found that remote blood pressure monitoring services were more effective than face-to-face consultation.