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Pharmacists in North East London to offer health checks as part of heart rhythm week

Hemant Patel says the LPC instigated the service to demonstrate pharmacy’s capabilities to commissioners

Free heart checks will be offered to patients in 135 community pharmacies in North East London during heart rhythm week, as part of an initiative that aims to find new ways for pharmacies to support patients with long-term conditions and improve public health.

From Monday 2 June, patients in participating pharmacies will be given cards inviting them to have their blood pressure and heart rhythm tested. If they accept, the pharmacist and counter assistant will perform the assessments in consulting rooms. Patients’ results are then sent to a cardiologist within 24 hours for interpretation, says Hemant Patel, secretary of the North East London Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), which instigated the project.

Heart rhythm will be assessed using the AliveCor device, which does not require patients to remove any clothing. AliveCor is providing the devices for free and will also provide staff to interpret the test results. Pharmacists and counter assistants taking part in the project were trained to use the equipment earlier this month (20 May 2014).

If someone shows signs of a heart condition, for example atrial fibrillation, their results are sent back to the pharmacy and then on to their GP, with the patient’s permission, says Patel. “We’re hoping to recruit between 500 and 700 patients and hoping that pharmacies might continue with the project until the end of June,” he adds.  

Many of the pharmacies taking part are independent pharmacies, but there has also been interest in the project from larger pharmacy chains. Lloyds Pharmacy has confirmed it wants to join the project, says Patel. “Other multiples are in discussions with their head office, but they are supportive too,” he adds.

To deliver the service, North East London LPC has teamed up with two charities, which run heart rhythm week, the Stroke Association and the Atrial Fibrillation Association. “This is not a service that has been commissioned; it is something we are doing to demonstrate pharmacy’s capability,” says Patel.

All the support for the project is coming from the LPC, with no external funding. “Commissioners don’t always think of pharmacy, so we will take projects to them and I think we have a good chance of getting services commissioned [by local authorities or the NHS],” he adds.

An online platform will collect data in four areas: patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes, pharmacist satisfaction and GP satisfaction. Analysis of the project outcomes and production of an in-depth report is scheduled for August 2014, with the aim of having a comprehensive picture to take to commissioners in September 2014.

The project is part of a self care pharmacy practice, an initiative by the LPC in North East London . “Since the [Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s] ‘Now or never’ report, we are trying to take action. We are not waiting for the government to come to us with solutions for taking pharmacy forward and garnering public support,” explains Patel. Currently, public health services account for only 2% of pharmacy revenue and Patel says he wants to increase that by building new public health services around existing services, such as repeat dispensing.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138733

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