Know Your Numbers: The Crucial Role of Community Pharmacies in Detecting High Blood Pressure

Know Your Numbers Week (4 - 10 September), aims to raise awareness of the risks around hypertension (high blood pressure). To mark the occasion, Dina Thakker, Community Pharmacy Clinical Lead for South West London ICS, writes about the role of community pharmacies in hypertension detection and management.

No matter what stage of life you are at, it is important to know your blood pressure numbers. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke, but doesn’t usually show symptoms until it is too late. As a result, getting a blood pressure check is often not prioritised, but knowing your numbers means you can make lifestyle changes or take preventative medicine to get your blood pressure to a healthy level.

As Community Pharmacy Clinical Lead for South West London ICS I oversee nationally commissioned community pharmacy services. One of the most important of these services is hypertension case finding, which helps us to detect hypertension throughout the region.

Community pharmacies are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in hypertension detection and management. In south west London, we have an extensive network of 293 pharmacies, out of which 223 are delivering the hypertension case finding service, ensuring good coverage across the region. Here's how community pharmacies are key to detection:

  • Accessibility and trust

    Pharmacies are easily accessible to the public and are regarded as trusted healthcare providers. Patients often feel at ease getting their blood pressure checked at their local pharmacy, making it a vital setting for early detection.

  • Comprehensive checks

    Pharmacies can conduct initial blood pressure checks and, if needed, follow up with ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) to get a more accurate assessment of a patient's blood pressure over waking hours or 24 hours.

  • Target population

    Pharmacies can identify individuals aged 40 years or older, or at the discretion of the pharmacist, people under 40, with high blood pressure who have not received a confirmed diagnosis. These individuals are then referred to general practice for further evaluation and appropriate management where needed.

  • Supporting general practice

    Pharmacies can also support general practice by undertaking ad hoc clinic and ambulatory blood pressure measurements for undiagnosed hypertension cases.

  • Promoting healthy behaviours

    Community pharmacies offer a unique opportunity to engage patients in discussions about their health, providing valuable advice and support to promote healthy behaviours.

But there’s more we can do. As a participant in the HIN’s Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Fellowship, I am developing a project focusing on supporting the development of community pharmacy hypertension case finding. The project will aim to:

  • develop digital pathways that streamline communication between community pharmacies and general practices, enabling smoother referrals and follow-ups;
  • improve awareness of the community pharmacy hypertension case finding service among colleagues and patients in primary care;
  • optimise service use such as by upskilling pharmacists in the use of ABPMs and helping other healthcare professionals, such as technicians, to provide the service effectively.

By improving care pathways I hope to further expand and improve the detection of hypertension in south west London, helping more patients to make choices and access treatment to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. I am looking forward to completing the project and sharing the results with you in future.

Find out more

Find out more about Know Your Numbers Week.

Visit Blood Pressure UK

Applications Open for Second Cohort of the HIN’s Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Fellowship

Doctor checking patient with stethoscope

Applications for the 2023 cohort have now closed. For more information contact

We are launching the second cohort of our Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention Fellowship Programme to develop clinical skills and knowledge to help improve outcomes for patients across south London who are at risk of CVD.

With six million people living with CVD in England with a combined cost of £16 billion every year improving outcomes for at risk patients is an NHS priority. This programme will help to speed up the adoption of innovative initiatives to help prevent CVD across south London.

This free programme builds on the first cohort which took place in 2022. It is aimed at nurses, GPs, clinical pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals working in primary care in south London who are keen to develop their skills and knowledge, and champion CVD prevention in their practice or wider Primary Care Network. The Fellowship aligns to local priorities, and supports practices and PCNs in meeting contract requirements (eg Quality Outcomes Framework).

Find out more about last year’s fellowship or watch the video below.

The programme content was very beneficial and helped to focus on the improvements that are required and how I am able to assist in making these improvements. I was able to develop some of my project managing skills.2022 Fellow

What does the fellowship involve?

The fellowship is Continuing Professional Development (CPD) accredited and provides free expert clinical advice and quality improvement support to help fellows become CVD Prevention Champions. It will also help fellows to deliver a quality improvement project focused on CVD in their practice or primary care network (PCN). See examples of 2022 projects here.

Running from July 2023 to February 2024, the fellowship will consist of:

  • A series of lunchtime webinars led by experts in a range of areas including lipid management, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, chronic kidney disease and obesity;
  • An in-person day to help develop your CVD Improvement project on 8 September;
  • Ongoing peer and expert sessions to support you in delivering your project, which will run September to December 2023;
  • A final in-person event in to celebrate the work of the Fellowship on 9 February 2024.

How to apply

The fellowship is free. Please ensure you are able to attend all events.

Before applying please read our flyer for more details including requirements of the Fellowship and dates.

To apply please complete this form.

Applications close at 5pm on Monday 3 July 2023. Please note that places are limited and applications may close early if all spaces are filled so do not delay in applying.

Apply Now

The quality improvement training and part of the HIN staff time to support the Fellows in the delivery of an improvement project are funded via a Daiichi-Sankyo grant. The HIN is also applying for further grants/non-promotional funding from other companies to support the final event of the Fellowship programme. 

Working Together to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Supporting the NHS workforce to develop skills and drive improvement is one of the HIN’s top priorities. As part of this we set up the Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention Fellowship and now we’re sharing guidance to help other organisations looking to run similar programmes. Sophie Mizen, Project Manager for the Fellowship Programme, writes about what we learnt from running the programme and how you help spread the word.

We set up the Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention Fellowship to address an area which is a top priority for the NHS. There are six million people in the UK with CVD and taking action to prevent it is the best way of reducing harm and saving lives. With a total cost to the NHS of £16bn per year, it’s also a more efficient way to tackle the problem than treating CVD at a later stage.

CVD Fellowship Stats

  • 85 participants from all 12 south London boroughs
  • 19 projects in hypertension impacting 21 GP surgeries
  • 14 projects in lipids impacting 22 GP surgeries
  • Three projects in familiar hypercholesterolaemia impacting seven GP surgeries
  • Four projects in atrial fibrillation impacting eight GP surgeries
  • 98 per cent of participants feel more confident in delivering care to patients at risk of CVD
  • 96 per cent are more confident in supporting their colleagues with CVD care
  • 95 per cent think patients at risk of CVD have benefited as a result

The Fellowship is one of a number of collaborative learning opportunities provided by the HIN to develop skills in the workforce and support the delivery of improvement projects aligned to health and care priorities. This supports our objectives of developing the skills needed to power health and care systems of the future, as well as making an immediate positive impact in areas of need.

The CVD Prevention Fellowship ran between April and November 2022, and included clinical webinars from specialists in the field, and collaborative quality improvement (QI) sessions where fellows could gain new skills, share learning and work on their own QI projects. The Fellowship was open to all health care professionals in primary care in south London.

Running the programme presented some challenges – not least because the number of participants was higher than we expected with over 100 initially expressing interest! We also know that clinicians tend to have very limited time, and while the Fellowship was free to join, we were not able to fund back-fill for time taken out of work. As such we had to keep the time commitment to a minimum, and were flexible in our approach to collecting progress updates.

We also adapted our approach to communication channels as we went. Our used of continuous feedback helped us listen to Fellows' needs and adapt the programme accordingly. As such, we switched our focus from quality improvement theory to practical troubleshooting when we realised this would be more beneficial to the Fellows and a more productive use of their time. We also incorporated some additional sessions such as a webinar on behaviour change in CVD and a drop-in clinic with a specialist going through lipids case studies.

The response to the fellowship was overwhelming, with over 80 fellows being upskilled in various areas of CVD and quality improvement. The fellows were required to deliver an improvement project in their practice/primary care network, to apply their new skills and knowledge. As part of the programme 40 quality improvement projects collectively impacting a total of 63 GP practices, representing all 12 boroughs in south London.

Patients positively responded to the work and we received some great feedback on the impact the quality improvement projects had on an individual level:

Thanks for giving me the information about statins. I did not realise that statins had anything to do with protecting the heart. I just thought it was to reduce cholesterol which I have been trying to do by good diet and exercise. Although sometimes I like to enjoy myself a little and eat the unhealthy stuff, I take my atorvastatin daily and I have not felt any side effects. Looking forward to the next blood test.

You can find out more about the patient experience in our case study pack which includes information on all the projects.

Throughout the programme feedback was received on the beneficial impact of education and training. A final feedback survey revealed that 98 per cent of fellows felt more confident delivering care to people at risk of CVD, and 96 per cent said they are supporting colleagues more with CVD prevention. Most importantly, 95% per cent said their at-risk patients have benefited from what they learnt. We also received great feedback from participants – you can find out more in the video below.

We learnt a lot from running the programme and wanted to share this to make it easier for anyone else thinking of running a similar programme. That’s why we’ve put together a guide outlining our approach, learnings and what we would do differently next time. Please share with any individuals or organisations who might be interested.

Find out More

Find out more about the Fellowship and access the resources mentioned in this blog.

Find out more about the CVD Prevention Fellowship.