Pfizer has this week launched its new pharmacy-based Vascular Health Check service, which will enable Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England to rollout the NHS Health Check programme through local settings such as community pharmacy.

The NHS Health Check programme aims to save 2,000 lives and help prevent up to 9,500 heart attacks and strokes each year, but a pilot study of 338 patients by Pfizer show that two-thirds of those at risk of a heart attack or stroke say that they would not take their screening tests at their general practitioner’s (GP) surgery.

The Pfizer Vascular Health Check Service is a commercial service that aims to support primary care organisations in delivering vascular health checks within a variety of settings by supplying all the equipment, consumables, training, IT, service support and audit processes required.

“GPs alone do not have the capacity to undertake all the screening tests required each year by the government,” comments Fran Sivers, chief executive of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society. “Running vascular health checks [the NHS Health Check] in settings such as a community pharmacy, and then targeting referrals of at-risk patients to general practice, encourages a more coordinated and cost efficient approach to vascular disease prevention. It ensures that GPs treat more of the high-risk patients and members of the primary healthcare team manage the diet and lifestyle aspects of vascular prevention, to help even more people stay healthy for longer,” adds Dr Sivers.

The pilot results show that a pharmacy-based programme is particularly successful in engaging hard-to-reach populations who rarely consult a doctor. 26% of those in the pilot had not visited their GP in over a year, and 66% of those screened said they were unlikely or very unlikely to have made a similar screening appointment at their GP practice. The study also shows that 15% of those screened were deemed to be at elevated risk of a heart attack or stroke and were referred to their GP for further investigation according to the locally agreed guidelines.

____”This pilot programme was highly motivating for my pharmacy staff, and shows that community pharmacies are capable of delivering quality screening services, which benefit the patient and local GP practices,” comments Samiah Tambra, a pharmacist at the Mid-Counties Co-Operative Pharmacy in Wolverhampton, who participated in the pilot. “Pharmacies can take the screening burden from GPs whilst reaching many more people who would not normally engage with their doctor,” she adds.____

In the pilot, 69% of patients using the service felt that pharmacy was an appropriate location to hold screening services, 97% of those screened found the test to be very or extremely beneficial and 92% said they would definitely recommend having a Vascular Health Check to their friends and family - a key element in engaging hard to reach populations.

"Vascular Health Checks have a clear benefit in identifying at-risk patients for appropriate intervention, but it is essential to engage the hard-to-reach patients, especially those who rarely, if ever, visit their doctor,” said Steve Poulton, commercial director and head of Pfizer UK’s established products business unit. “Pfizer are ready to work with primary care organisations to deliver these tests with a proven cost-effective service, and community-based locations such as pharmacy are the ideal places to hold these screening services,” he added.____