A new pilot scheme that sees people screened for atrial fibrillation within community pharmacies is proving successful, new data suggests.
NHS England and City Care rolled out the initiative at 16 pharmacies in London last year as part of a 'test beds programme' aimed at testing "the treatments and care models of tomorrow", Chemist + Druggist reports.
Patients within the test area and aged 65 or over are able to go to their chemist and be checked for atrial fibrillation using a handheld device. If their results are abnormal, they are referred directly to a nearby hospital for further diagnostic tests. Afterwards, they are referred back to their pharmacy for ongoing management of their condition.
So far, it has been revealed that almost 700 people have been screened, with nearly seven per cent found to have atrial fibrillation they were previously unaware of. If this were extrapolated across the country, University College London said it could prevent 1,600 to 1,700 strokes each year by detecting heart problems earlier.
North-East London LPC secretary Hemant Patel told C+D the scheme is part of a wider drive to establish community pharmacists as "clinical experts on the high street".
"Community pharmacy is an ideal place for screening and managing stable and long-term conditions like atrial fibrillation, diabetes, cardiovascular [disease] and asthma," he added.
If further results show the programme to be a success, it may be that pharmacy tests for atrial fibrillation are rolled out across the country, something that could significantly reduce pressure on GPs.
It should also allow people to get treatment for heart conditions much more quickly than is currently the case, potentially avoiding many preventable deaths.
Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that causes patients' hearts to beat irregularly and often particularly fast, typically above 100 beats per minute.
This can cause dizziness, tiredness and noticeable palpitations. The condition affects around a million people in Britain.