A new initiative, which will see community pharmacists test for high blood pressure, has been launched throughout the South Eastern area.
The pilot scheme, developed and led by South Eastern Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs), and working in partnership with Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, and Community Pharmacy NI, means fully trained and accredited community pharmacists will be able to test for high blood pressure in the pharmacy.
Approximately 60 community pharmacies are involved in the scheme, aimed at detecting potential high blood pressure, or hypertension, in people over the age of 45 in a pharmacy setting.
In Northern Ireland 18 per cent of the population have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. It is estimated that up to 89,000 adults have undiagnosed and untreated hypertension in Northern Ireland.
Because most people won’t have any obvious symptoms the only way to find out if your blood pressure is too high or too low is to have a test.
If high blood pressure is left undetected this can increase the risk of developing serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
Karen Moran, chair and Pharmacy lead of Lisburn Integrated Care Partnership said: “Community pharmacists are ideally placed to deal with people who may not regularly attend their GP practice and could have undiagnosed hypertension.
“Getting early lifestyle advice to promote self-care and signposting to community services will help people feel more confident in looking after their own health and possibly future health issues.”
The Health and Social Care Board’s Pharmacy Co-ordinator (South East) Helen Creighton said: “Community pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals, offering a range of health promotion advice and services in local communities.
“This new initiative will utilise their skills and expertise and ensure that people undertaking hypertension testing will get professional advice on how to self-manage their health and wellbeing.”
Dr Chris Leggett, GP and chair of Down Integrated Care Partnership, welcomed the initiative saying: “This has the potential to save lives and prevent strokes, but can also take some of the burden of screening for high blood pressure away from overloaded GP surgeries.”
Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke’s Public Health Director, Fidelma Carter, said: “We are delighted to be part of this scheme which dovetails with our extensive health promotion initiative, going out into communities to encourage people to make informed choices and adopt healthier lifestyles in order to reduce their risk of developing chest, heart and stroke illness.”
Approximately 60 pharmacies have signed up to take part in the scheme which will run until 31 December.