NHS plan could see blood pressure checks on supermarket tills
The Daily Telegraph -Laura Donnelly
11 September 2017 • 10:00 PM
Shoppers could have their blood pressure checked at supermarket tills under radical NHS plans aimed at preventing almost 25,000 heart attacks and strokes. Firefighters, teachers and office workers will also be trained to carry out tests, in a bid to identify thousands of people are risk of the major killers.
Under the NHS proposals, local planners will be encouraged to find “creative ways” to carry out checks on those in middle age – instead of relying on them to turn up at GPs’.
In some areas, fire fighters will be instructed to carry out blood pressure checks when they are carrying out home visits, fitting or testing smoke alarms. Teachers could also be asked to carry out tests during parents’ evenings or at the school gates.
And supermarkets will be asked to consider offering checks at the till – with updates printed on the back of till receipts, health officials said. Companies will be asked to install automated blood pressure machines, or to train a member of staff to take regular tests.
Health officials say people need to be “as familiar with their blood pressure numbers as they are with their credit card PIN”.
But GPs were sceptical, saying that too many “blanket checks” risked over diagnosis, heaping pressures on services. And patients’ groups said health checks should be performed by those with medical expertise.
The three year plan by NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) aims to prevent 14,500 strokes and almost 10,000 heart attacks.
Officials said 44 NHS “sustainability and transformation partnerships” which work with local authorities will be asked to find new ways to identify those who are suffering from “the invisible killer”.
In total, 5.5 million people in England have undiagnosed high blood pressure.
NHS England said that identifying cases earlier, encouraging lifestyle changes and medication to protect against heart disease, could save thousands of lives.
Prof Duncan Selbie, PHE chief executive, said health officials hoped to work with major retailers to bring the checks to the high street. “High blood pressure is the invisible killer. We want people to be as familiar with their blood pressure numbers as they are with their credit card PIN or their height.”
“We want to get people talking about their blood pressure – at supermarkets – Asda, Tesco, making it normal to have your number on your till receipts. You could do it [check] at the till, with technology it’s so easy,” he added.
Workplaces would also be encouraged to introduce checks, he said, given that healthier workers were more productive. “Sixty per cent of your waking hours are spent in the workplace, it’s a fantastic place to do this stuff,” he said. Patients’ groups were sceptical, particularly about the idea of asking other professions to take on clinical tasks.
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said: “Firefighters should stick to fighting fires and leave the routine medical checks to doctors and nurses. People won’t want firemen quizzing them on their health and taking their blood pressure while extinguishing a fire or testing their smoke alarm.”
And the Royal College of GPs said “blanket health checks” could divert resources from those in most need, and lead to over-diagnosis.
Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary, National Education Union, said: “While this is an important issue, teachers couldn’t possibly carry out health checks at parents evenings or school gates.
“Whoever came up with this suggestion clearly has no idea of the current pressure teachers and school staff are placed under. They are trained to teach children and young people – not substitute for healthcare professionals.”
Everyone aged between 40 and 74 is supposed to be offered an NHS Health Check, every five years. But just half of patients take up the offer, health officials said.
Sir Bruce Keough will say that closer working between the NHS, local authorities, workplaces and schools is crucial to cut deaths from heart attacks and strokes – who between them are responsible for quarter of premature deaths. “Cardiovascular disease kills more people in this country than anything else,” the former heart surgeon will say. “We know how to treat the resulting heart attacks and stroke, but everyone knows that prevention is better than cure.
“Prevention of these devastating consequences is everybody’s business from our schools, to the food and tobacco industries, to local authorities and the NHS.” Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “Early detection and management of medical risk factors such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and high cholesterol will ensure patients get the right treatments in sufficient time to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
“The BHF has funded several care programmes which found that joined up local services are cost effective and benefit patients. “It is good news that the NHS recognises this and wants a more integrated approach for patient care.
“This will help to reduce the current variations in care across the country, ultimately preventing heart attacks & strokes, and improving patient outcomes.”