Guidance published by the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme in collaboration with the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) suggests that one patient could be prevented from suffering a stroke for every 5,000 people aged over-65 offered heart rhythm checks at vaccination centres.
Now NHS England has set out how the health service will make ‘every contact count’ by rolling out opportunities for health checks at times when patients have other health appointments, including when they drop in for top-up COVID-19 jabs or flu vaccinations this autumn.
Health MOTs at vaccination centres, pharmacies and clinics could save thousands of lives every year, said NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard, speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference.
She announced how the health service will be rolling out opportunities for screenings at times when patients already have other health appointments. Tests including blood pressure, heart rhythm and cholesterol checks will be offered to patients when they drop in for top-up COVID-19 jabs or flu vaccinations this autumn.
Modelling outlined in the recent Targeted AF detection in COVID-19 vaccination clinics guidance, produced by the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme and the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), suggests that one patient in every 5,000 aged over-65 could be prevented from suffering a stroke if they are offered heart checks at vaccination centres, meaning more than 1,000 strokes could be prevented every year.
In her announcement, Amanda Pritchard said: “The NHS is not just a sickness service but a health service which is why we want to make every contact count, using every opportunity to keep people well rather than just seeking to make them better.
“We want to offer a fully integrated care system, where we can reach out to people in the communities they live in – not just diagnosing and treating conditions, but working in partnership with the public and intervening before advanced disease occurs, keeping people healthy and well.
“The hugely successful NHS vaccine programme has given us the opportunity to make every contact count by going out into peoples’ communities to beat coronavirus while also catching other killer conditions.
“The checks – like the jabs – are available in convenient locations in local communities including village halls, churches, mosques and local sports centres and prevent people becoming seriously ill.”
Prevention is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan, which includes the ambition to prevent 150,000 strokes and heart attacks over the next ten years by improving the treatment of high-risk conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (AF).
Dr Deb Lowe, national NHS clinical director for stroke and the senior clinical advisor for the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) stroke programme, said: “People who have atrial fibrillation (AF) are at higher risk of having a stroke, but through early detection their risk can be significantly reduced with the right medication.
“Incorporating health checks at vaccination sites so over 65s can access them conveniently is a great initiative – ensuring every contact counts and encouraging individuals to be aware of their blood pressure and pulse could save lives and reduce disability caused by stroke.”
David Hargroves, GIRFT’s clinical lead for the stroke programme, added: “Our guidance shows how offering over-65s a simple heart rhythm check when they get their COVID-19 jab has been helping to reduce the health risks associated with stroke. Our aim is to encourage and enable other systems to follow the example set by sites where this has been piloted.
“We welcome the broadening of this successful initiative to include other vital health checks and other patients, to ensure the NHS is working to detect disease in the early stages, or even better, prevent it entirely.”