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Health MOTs at NHS vaccination services, pharmacies and clinics are set to save thousands of lives, the health service’s Chief Operating Officer announced today.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference, Amanda Pritchard set out how the health service will make ‘every contact count’ by rolling out opportunities for health checks at times when patients already have other appointments.
The NHS will offer a range of targeted tests including blood pressure, heart-rhythm and cholesterol checks when people drop in for top-up covid jabs or flu vaccinations this autumn.
With one stroke prevented and 37 people with irregular heart rates diagnosed for every 5,000 people offered heart checks at vaccination centres, it is estimated that more than 1,000 strokes could be prevented every year if everyone over 65 was offered an annual heart rhythm check.
NHS Chief Operating Officer, Amanda Pritchard said: “The NHS is not just a sickness service but a health service which is why we want to make every contact count, using every opportunity to keep people well rather than just seeking to make them better.
“We want to offer a fully integrated care system, where we can reach out to people in the communities they live in – not just diagnosing and treating conditions, but working in partnership with the public and intervening before advanced disease occurs, keeping people healthy and well.
“The hugely successful NHS vaccine programme has given us the opportunity to make every contact count by going out into peoples’ communities to beat coronavirus while also catching other killer conditions.
“The checks – like the jabs – will be available in convenient locations in local communities including village halls, churches, mosques and local sports centres and prevent people becoming seriously ill.”
Across the country, pharmacists have been offering on-the-spot high-street heart checks to identify patients at risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke as part of an ongoing pilot – providing clinical and lifestyle advice and, where appropriate, referring patients on to treatment.
In Leeds dentists are offering patients blood pressure and heart rhythm tests to help spot the early signs of heart disease and stroke, all in a 20-minute window. And Croydon’s Vaxi Taxi has been offering blood pressure checks, podiatry services and hepatitis C testing at community vaccination pop-ups for homeless people in London.
Catching major killers such as strokes and heart attacks at an earlier stage is key to the NHS Long Term Plan’s ambitions of saving thousands of lives each year.
Dr Deb Lowe, NHS Clinical Director for Stroke, said: “People who have atrial fibrillation are at higher risk of having a stroke, but through early detection their risk can be significantly reduced with the right medication. Incorporating health checks at vaccination sites so patients can access them conveniently is a great initiative – ensuring every contact counts and encouraging individuals to be aware of their blood pressure and pulse could save lives and reduce disability caused by stroke.”
Prevention is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan. In addition to substantial commitments to tackle obesity, alcohol and smoking, the plan includes the ambition to prevent 150,000 strokes and heart attacks over the next ten years by improving the treatment of high-risk conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.