Thousands of free blood pressure monitors will save lives in Cheshire and Merseyside

Blood pressure monitors will be handed out by the NHS to patients, in a bid to reduce the death toll from heart attacks and strokes, in a new national programme trialled first across Cheshire and Merseyside.

It is hoped that patients checking their levels at home will highlight far earlier the potentially fatal onset of hypertension, known as the silent killer. The 220,000 DIY monitors, costing £17 each, will allow patients to spot their high blood pressure more effectively and send alerts to GPs.

Hypertension affects around 12 million in England alone. It can put a strain on organs, increasing the chances of heart disease, kidney problems and vascular dementia.

The Cheshire and Merseyside Hypertension Accelerator Project and Blood Pressure @home Programme have supported this vital “@home” initiative from its grassroots stages.

GP Practices across Cheshire and Merseyside have received more than 11,000 blood pressure machines, and Digital First Primary Care funding has allowed the NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside to procure thousands of additional blood pressure machines, scaling up the national programme. The first deliveries of the additional machines to Cheshire and Merseyside CCGs are anticipated before the end of the year.

Sally Deacon, Programme Manager for the Cheshire and Merseyside ICS-wide Hypertension Accelerator Project said, “Blood Pressure care and control are likely to have been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Home BP monitoring generates a high volume of

BP readings that require processing and entering onto electronic records. Digital enablers supported by the Accelerator project are key for general practice to manage workload and ensure a sustainable approach to home BP monitoring at scale for our population.” 

Nationally, more than 65,000 monitors have been issued already to patients with high blood pressure that is uncontrolled and NHS officials expect the majority of the rollout will be distributed this year.

Users take readings at home and send them to their surgery by phone, or via email or another digital platform, so staff can decide if treatment needs to be altered.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates that 28% of adults in England, around 12 million, have high blood pressure and less than half are receiving effective treatment.

Some 8.5 million have a diagnosis but as many as 3.5 million are thought to be undiagnosed.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the BHF and a consultant cardiologist, “People diagnosed with uncontrolled high blood pressure have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

“This important initiative, supported by the BHF, means people with heart conditions can monitor their blood pressure themselves at home which reduces the need to travel for consultations.”

Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for the NHS, said, “It’s vital that people with high blood pressure keep track of their levels, so they can report any significant changes that could indicate a potentially deadly stroke or heart attack. This simple but lifesaving innovation offers people efficient and convenient care.

“By using these monitors, and reporting the readings to local teams, patients are able to quickly and easily update GP teams with a regular snapshot of their blood pressure health.”

The monitors use an arm cuff connected to a machine to measure the pressure of blood being pumped around the body. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and given as two figures   systolic (when the heart pushes blood out) and diastolic (when it rests between beats).

It is considered high if over 135/85 mmHg for people under 80, or 145/85 mmHg for over-80s. For an accurate reading, patients typically are advised to take measurements daily, in the morning and evening, for four consecutive days.

Their GP may ask for readings each month or every six months to keep track of their condition, although advice will vary depending on the patient.

Home monitoring can give more accurate readings, as anxiety caused by being tested in a surgery can affect the result. It also saves time for patients and doctors by reducing physical visits.

The devices sell for around £20 but officials hope that offering them free on the NHS will stop that cost deterring people who need them most.

They expect some costs to be offset by savings made from reducing the number of heart attack and stroke patients.

Library image: SHVETS production

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