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DH awaits pilot results to inform pharmacy heart health-check service

The DH still intends to commission a nationwide pharmacy heart health-check service and awaits the results of a hypertension case finding pilot in selected PCN areas, it has said.

The NHS cardiovascular disease (CVD) pilot was launched in six selected primary care network (PCN) areas in November 2020 and will run until July 2021.

The pilot sees a pharmacist or “trained pharmacy team member” refer people who are likely to have hypertension to GPs for ongoing care on managing blood pressure.

Depending on the outcome of this pilot – and subject to contract negotiations – the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) intends to commission an England-wide pharmacy heart health-check service, it told C+D on Tuesday (May 18).

Health secretary Matt Hancock first mooted the idea of “on the spot heart health checks” from community pharmacies in September 2019, at which point the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) stressed the service was “still in planning stages”.

At the Sigma Pharmaceuticals conference last year, Mr Hancock repeated his call for the pharmacy-commissioned service.

A DH spokesperson told C+D on Tuesday (May 18): “Diagnosis and treatment for heart disease patients have remained a top priority throughout the pandemic.

“We want community pharmacies to be an integral part of the NHS, delivering more clinical services and becoming the first port of call for minor illnesses, and we are exploring what role community pharmacies across the country can play in supporting people to access free heart health checks.”

Pilot explained

Pharmacies in Chesterfield and Dronfield PCN; Darlington PCN; Dudley Netherton PCN; Newham Central PCN; North Newham PCN; and Urban Health PCN – which falls under the Black Country and West Birmingham clinical commissioning group  – are currently involved in the pilot.

Pharmacists or “trained pharmacy team members” are asked to proactively identify patients at risk of heart disease and stroke and offer them on-the-spot blood pressure checks, provide clinical and lifestyle advice and, where appropriate, refer patients on to treatment within the PCN.

The service is targeted at adults aged 40 years or over, who do not have a current diagnosis of hypertension or related condition, any patient under 40 who has a family history of hypertension and those referred by a GP practice.

Patients aged between 35 and 39 years can be tested if the service is requested, “at the pharmacist’s discretion”, according to the service level agreement.

The heart health check service is one of a range of new services proposed in the five-year contract. It was first announced in 2019 and was originally intended to be rolled out as a fully-funded service in 2021/22.

On April 28, PSNC announced the 2021/22 contract negotiations had begun but stressed that it was “unlikely” to make any final decision “until we have clarity on COVID costs”.

Earlier this week (May 17), Numark launched an unfunded, free heart health-check service from 50 of its member pharmacies and Rowlands branches. The group argued that community pharmacies should be commissioned to deliver a similar service.

Do you offer a blood pressure checking service in your pharmacy?

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