The NHS is expanding blood pressure checks available in local communities as part of a major drive to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
NHS figures show high street pharmacies delivered a total of 149,865 blood pressure checks to the over 40s in May 2023, more than double the 58,345 delivered the year before.
New funding as part of the primary care access recovery plan will see a further 2.5 million blood pressure checks in community pharmacies, which are estimated to prevent more than 1,350 cardiovascular events each year.
As part of the scheme, mobile sites have visited places such as barber shops, supermarkets, mosques and dominoes clubs so that local teams can find potential health problems for patients at locations that are most convenient.
David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, said: “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.
“With the number of people living with major illnesses including heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions 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, with figures showing teams are on track to prevent more than 1,300 heart attacks and strokes this year alone.”
The Health Foundation estimates that 9.1 million people will be living with a major illness by 2040, 2.5 million more than in 2019.
John Maingay, director of policy and influencing at the British Heart Foundation, urged people to take up the local checks.
He said: “Having high blood pressure can significantly increase your risk of having a heart attack and stroke, but it can be difficult to know you have it unless you check because it doesn’t usually have any obvious symptoms.
“At a time when the NHS is busier than ever, making more of these free checks available in local communities has the potential to help millions more people improve their heart health, and prevent more heart attacks and strokes.
“We urge everyone to take up a free blood pressure check in your neighbourhood – it’s quick, easy, and could help save your life.”