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