Dr Mike Clark, clinical lead for health improvement at NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG, and GP with High Street Surgery, Macclesfield
Did you know that high blood pressure (hypertension) is the nation’s most common long-term condition and, after smoking, is the biggest cause of disability and premature death.
In Cheshire and Wirral alone, there are thought to be 300,000 people with high blood pressure, and a further 150,000 undiagnosed. High blood pressure can cause heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. What’s more, complications from high blood pressure are estimated to cost the NHS more than £6m a year in Cheshire and the Wirral.
Hypertension is largely preventable, which is why NHS leaders in Cheshire and Merseyside have agreed a string of actions to prevent high blood pressure as part of their response to NHS England’s Five-Year Forward View – a blueprint for how the NHS must change to continue providing excellent, affordable care.
The actions include making blood pressure testing widely available in community pharmacies and taking steps to improve blood pressure management in GP practices. These measures are expected to prevent 262 adverse health events over the first five years, made up of 74 strokes, 47 heart attacks, 103 instances of heart failure and 38 deaths, saving around £600,000 a year by reducing the number of people needing treatment because of complications.
This approach has been described by Public Health England as nationally “pace setting” while Professor Norm Campbell, a world authority on high blood pressure, has termed our plans “state of the art”.
The blood pressure prevention programme is one of three agreed by the NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside. The other two focus on tackling alcohol misuse and the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. Together, these three issues are seen as the biggest challenges facing the NHS in the area.
Irresponsible drinking can cause strokes, heart disease, liver disease, brain damage, various cancers and damage to the nervous system. In addition, misuse of alcohol is associated with up to 70 per cent of A&E visits at peak times. Targeted advice at the point of care and enhanced support for drinkers are among the actions agreed.
Meanwhile, resistance to antibiotics is growing because of inappropriate use and has been named by the World Health Organisation as the greatest global health threat and Public Health England’s top priority. Improving the education of prescribers on the implications of anti-microbial resistance is one way to improve this.
Keep an eye on this column for updates on the delivery of these plans.