More pharmacies in England to offer free heart checks
More pharmacies in England will start offering people free, on-the-spot heart check-ups from next month.
Shoppers would have their blood pressure and cholesterol tested.
The programme, which could expand to every pharmacy in England, should prevent up to 150,000 heart attacks and strokes within a decade, say experts.
It is part of the government's plan to do more in the community and ease strain on stretched hospitals and GP surgeries.
It will be funded as part of a £13bn five-year contract for community pharmacies and, to begin with, will involve hundreds of pharmacies.
Select pharmacies have already been offering these types of checks as part of a pilot scheme and say it works.
In Lambeth and Southwark, Dudley, and West Hampshire, for example, identifying people with high blood pressure or a heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation has improved care and freed up GPs' time.
England's most senior doctor, NHS national medical director Prof Stephen Powis, said: "Heart disease and strokes dramatically cut short lives, and leave thousands of people disabled every year, so rapid detection of killer conditions through High Street heart checks will be a game-changer."
Simon Gillespie, from the British Heart Foundation, said: "Millions of people in England are living with conditions such as high blood pressure which, if left untreated, significantly increase the risk of having a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke.
"Reaching more people and encouraging them to check their blood pressure, working with them to lower it where necessary, will play an absolutely critical role in saving lives in the coming years.
"Giving a greater role to community pharmacists in helping increase early detection of heart and circulatory diseases is a very welcome move that will help the NHS deliver its Long Term Plan commitment to prevent 100,000 heart attacks and strokes over the next 10 years.
"Once people are diagnosed with high blood pressure, raised cholesterol or atrial fibrillation, they can then be supported to manage their condition, which will reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke, and ultimately could save their life."
People aged between 40 and 74 and who live in England are already routinely invited for free five-yearly health checks at some chemist shops as well as GP surgeries to spot early signs of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems or dementia.