Student pharmacists from the University of Portsmouth are checking residents’ blood pressures to help identify people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

In October and November, over 170 people had their blood pressure checked at 10 events across the city. Around a quarter had high or very high blood pressure (also referred to as hypertension).

The innovative programme was a collaboration between Portsmouth City Council Public Health, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board (HIOW ICB) and the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Portsmouth.

Those with a high blood pressure reading were referred into the community pharmacy blood pressure check service, established across many of the city’s pharmacies, for further monitoring. If required, a specialist pharmacist can then initiate medications to manage high blood pressure.

Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing, Health and Care at Portsmouth City Council, said:

Left undetected, high blood pressure can cause heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and dementia – it’s so important to take a few minutes to get it checked as it can be life-saving.

This is a great example of how partnership working can benefit the community. The programme is addressing inequalities in cardiovascular disease by reaching and delivering care to communities in a different way. It is also utilising the expertise of pharmacists while minimising additional activity on GPs in the city.”

Ellie Cast, Cardiovascular Specialist Pharmacist at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board, said:

“‘I am really proud to be part of this innovative pathway because it is a great opportunity to support the future pharmacy workforce and evidence how pharmacists, in community pharmacies and in roles like mine, can make a real difference.”

Dr Helen Hull, Pharmacy Course Lead at the University of Portsmouth, and Dr Nicola Barnes, Pharmacy Practice Placement Development Lead, said:

“These student-led clinics have demonstrated positive impacts for both users and our pharmacy students. The clinics have provided an opportunity for pharmacy students to deliver preventative community services that aim to improve population health at a time when health care is experiencing unprecedented challenges.”

The checks took place at four venues: SPARK Community Space at the Pompey Centre, Portsmouth Foodbank at The Kings Church, the John Pounds Centre and at Portsmouth City Council’s Civic Offices. Further sessions are planned at these venues and new venues, including Portsmouth International Port.

Prior to the checks, the pharmacy students had been trained in Making Every Contact Count (MECC). This is an approach which encourages staff working with the public to have conversations about how they might make positive improvements to their health or wellbeing.

The Portsmouth Wellbeing Service were also in attendance at each event to provide advice on stopping smoking, weight management or alcohol intake – healthy lifestyle changes which can help manage high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is one of the greatest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular diseases contribute substantially (nearly a third of the gap) to inequalities in life expectancy between most and least deprived areas. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men in Portsmouth 50-84 years of age consistently (not 2020).

Adults over 40 years old are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years. Those with an existing diagnosis of high blood pressure should have an annual check.

Health and Care Portsmouth partners including Portsmouth City Council and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board are working on further projects to provide and promote blood pressure checks in local communities.

Many community pharmacies offer free blood pressure checks – find a pharmacy that does on the NHS website.

For more information on blood pressure and different ways of getting blood pressure checks, see the ICB’s Healthy Hearts page.