More than 40% of adults unaware of community pharmacy blood pressure service

NHS England has launched a campaign to encourage visits to community pharmacies for blood pressure checks.
Woman putting blood pressure machine sleeve on woman's arm

NHS England has revealed that 44% of adults are not aware that they can get a free blood pressure check at a community pharmacy, while 59% of adults are unaware that they do not need an appointment for a check.

A survey of 2,109 people aged 40 years and over in England, carried out by research company Censuswide between 12 February and 19 February 2024, also found that despite most high blood pressure cases being asymptomatic, only 7% of adults think the condition has no symptoms.        

The data were released as part of a national campaign, including advertising with former footballer Graeme Souness and TV presenter Gloria Hunniford, which aims to promote the NHS community pharmacy blood pressure check service.

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said it is hoped that the campaign will urge those at risk to prioritise getting their blood pressure checked, even if they have no symptoms.

It is estimated that 29% of high blood pressure cases in England are undiagnosed, equating to 4.2 million people.

Under the blood pressure check service, which launched on 1 October 2021, community pharmacies can offer checks to people aged over 40 years without a diagnosis of hypertension, and those aged under 40 years who request a check owing to a family history of hypertension.

In November 2023, NHS England announced that all pharmacies offering the NHS Pharmacy First service would also need to offer the blood pressure check service, as well as the NHS community pharmacy contraception service, by 31 March 2025.

NHS England’s primary care recovery plan, published on 9 May 2023, announced funding for a further 2.5 million blood checks in community pharmacy, which is estimated to prevent more than 1,350 heart attacks and strokes in the first year.

Commenting on the NHS campaign, James Davies, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said: “Conveniently located in the heart of communities, community pharmacists play a crucial role in supporting the health and wellbeing of their patients, including addressing undiagnosed high blood pressure.

“Through delivering services tailored to the health needs of their local populations, individuals over the age of 40 [years] can take advantage of free blood pressure checks at many local pharmacies in England”.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that raising awareness of the blood pressure check service will “help eligible members of the public to access crucial advice and support, enabling them to better understand and take control of their own health”.

She added: “Pharmacy teams have already supported thousands of patients through this service, and there is huge potential to help even more people.

“The service can serve to reduce health inequalities across local communities, with pharmacy teams well placed to play a greater part in tackling CVD, alongside general practice colleagues.”

Helen Williams, a pharmacist and national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention at NHS England, said: “It can be easy to dismiss the risks of stroke and heart attack associated with high blood pressure, especially as it often has no signs or symptoms, so I would encourage everyone over the age of 40 to know their blood pressure numbers.

“With thousands of pharmacies across the country now offering free blood pressure checks with healthy living advice, it’s a quick, easy and convenient way to keep on top of your cardiovascular health at a time and place that suits you.”

Pharmacy owners providing the blood pressure check service can order a free pharmacy campaign pack from the Campaign Resource Centre.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2024, Vol 312, No 7983;312(7983)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.284757

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