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GP pharmacists to lead north east London virtual hypertension programme

A GP pharmacist-led “virtual care” programme will manage 1,800 hypertension cases across three deprived boroughs in London, local commissioners have said.

A new “pharmacist-led” programme in north east London is set to identify and manage hypertension in 1,800 “at risk” patients from this month as part of a partnership between local commissioners and a digital health start-up.

NHS North East London integrated care board (NEL ICB) is running a six-month hypertension programme using “virtual care platform” Suvera to “proactively” identify patients at a high risk of hypertension who are “hard to reach”, according to the start-up.

The programme was “initiated” last month but began “proactive engagement with patients” from this month “with the support of [a] virtual pharmacist team”, a Suvera spokesperson told C+D last week (June 27).

Read more: Pharmacies to do 2.5m more blood pressure checks a year under NHSE plans

An NEL ICB spokesperson said that nine GP practices across three boroughs with high levels of deprivation – Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest – will be involved.

They confirmed that general practice independent prescribing pharmacists will lead the virtual care team that the start-up said is “designed to proactively guide patients towards normal blood pressure with GP oversight”.


200 patients per practice


The Suvera spokesperson told C+D that the platform uses data from patient records to identify people who should be screened for high blood pressure.

Suvera analysts then work with a clinical team to “confirm undetected patients who may have hypertension” using “bespoke searches”, according to an NEL ICS spokesperson.

Those identified are offered a phone appointment and home blood pressure monitoring “with required clinical investigations” to diagnose or confirm that they do not have hypertension, they said.

Read more: CCA: Hypertension case-finding service to halt 15k cardiovascular events by 2026

If diagnosed, the platform “co-ordinates care” with a GP independent prescribing pharmacist to provide the patient with a “personalised treatment programme”, the Suvera spokesperson said.

Suvera is looking to manage 200 patients per practice, for a total of 1,800 patients over the course of the programme, they added.

Read more: Boots offers free “health MOTs” for over 40s in England until June

According to the spokesperson, “over 100 GP practices across the UK” have already commissioned the start-up to run similar heart disease prevention programmes, including in Cambridgeshire, Brighton, Shropshire and north central London.

The virtual care platform is currently helping more than 81,000 patients across more than 90 GP practices in the UK, it said.


“Key priority”


NEL ICB senior transformation manager Kerrie Soares said that it is “important for system partners to work together to improve residents’ access to primary care and preventive services” since hypertension has been highlighted as a key NHS priority.

She added that using “digital and virtual tools and platforms” was “just one approach” to improving outcomes for people with hypertension.

Founder and CEO of Suvera Ivan Beckley said that the company is “honoured to have been chosen to deliver this project”.

Read more: How to optimise your hypertension case-finding service

“We know first-hand how much of a strain cardiovascular disease (CVD) is on the NHS – it accounts for a quarter of a million hospital admissions a year,” he said.

He added that Suvera’s “highly trained virtual care team” is designed to “make digital-first integrated care a reality for the most complex patients – improving outcomes at lower costs”.

According to Suvera, CVD accounts for up to 250,000 hospital admissions and around 140,000 deaths in England each year, with those living in the most deprived areas “four times as likely to die prematurely of CVD than those in the least deprived”.


Greater CVD role?


The launch of the programme comes as community pharmacists are being called on to play a larger role in hypertension identification and treatment.

In May, the Labour party announced that it would further expand the role of pharmacists in primary care, in particular enabling pharmacists to work alongside GPs to help manage hypertension.

Read more: One third of patients register high blood pressure, NHS pilot results show

This came after NHS England (NHSE) released its long-awaited primary care recovery plan last week (June 30), in which it was announced that there would be funding for “up to an additional 2.5 million [blood pressure] checks per year in each of 2023/24 and 2024/25”. 

And in April, legislative updates published by the NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA) revealed that pharmacy technicians could now deliver blood pressure checks for hypertension case-finding and smoking cessation services.

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