High blood pressure is a silent and potentially deadly condition that significantly increases a person’s chance of a heart attack or stroke.  

It is estimated that there are 163,000 people in Merseyside with undiagnosed high blood pressure. On 14th April the Stroke Association’s ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ campaign to raise awareness of the effects of high blood pressure (particularly the increased risk of stroke) took place. To mark the occasion and to increase awareness of the campaign within the region, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s (MFRS) Chief Fire Officer, Dan Stephens, had his blood pressure measured by a trained member of Fire and Rescue Service staff.

Since 15th January MFRS have been working in collaboration with Champs Public Health Collaborative to deliver a three-month pilot, offering free blood pressure checks to vulnerable people within the community during ‘Safe and Well’ visits. The collaboration came to fruition after Champs’ successful bid to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for a grant to help to support a community based project aimed at preventing, detecting and managing cases of high blood pressure across Cheshire and Merseyside.

The BHF funding has allowed the relevant FRS teams to be equipped with standards compliant BP machines, and to receive appropriate training.

The Safe and Well programme builds on the Fire and Rescue Service’s established Home Fire Safety Check initiative and supports local health needs by delivering recognised health interventions with specially trained fire service advocates.

Undertaken in conjunction with the NHS, Fire Service staff can provide advice on how to avoid a trip or fall in the home, the benefits of quitting smoking or reducing alcohol consumption and awareness of the National bowel cancer screening programme.

BP checks are being offered to residents over 65 and other at risk groups determined by the FRS. It is hoped that the initiative will increase opportunities for blood pressure testing and monitoring outside of GP practices as many people are unaware that they have high blood pressure, often leading to on-going health problems.

After having his blood pressure taken, Dan Stephens, Chief Fire Officer at MFRS, said: “We are pleased to be working alongside Champs Public Health Collaborative to take part in this pilot programme, offering blood pressure checks for those who need them most during our Safe and Well visits. This multi-agency approach will hopefully lead to more at-risk individuals being identified and treated.”

Dr Muna Abdel Aziz, Director of Public Health (DPH) for Warrington, and the Cheshire & Merseyside DPH Lead for Blood Pressure said: “We are delighted to have our Fire and Rescue colleagues on board to include blood pressure checks in the Safe and Well Checks. As a trusted and respected public service organisation, the Fire and Rescue service will help us reach people who might otherwise have slipped the net. Our collaborative work on blood pressure in Cheshire & Merseyside is exemplary as a whole system partnership; and the addition of these services with Merseyside Fire and Rescue will enhance our achievements and improve the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

Alexis Kolodziej, Deputy Director for Policy and Influencing at the Stroke Association, said: “High blood pressure normally doesn’t have any symptoms and it’s much more common than people think. That’s why we’re urging as many people as possible have theirs checked at their nearest event. It’s quick and easy and it could save your life. Know Your Blood Pressure Day is an incredibly successful health campaign where we host free blood pressure tests all over the country, and means the difference between life and death in some cases. With events like these, we can give people who are most at risk of stroke the early warning they need to take preventative action.”

To find your nearest event, you can visit www.stroke.org.uk/kybp.