£85K funding award to reduce cardiovascular disease inequalities in patients with severe mental illness and nearly 10,000 additional blood pressure monitors secured

Patients with severe mental illness across two Cheshire and Merseyside localities will benefit from targeted pilots to increase targeted uptake of NHS Health Checks thanks to an £85,000 funding award from NHS England and NHS Improvement as part of the Core20PLUS5 agenda.

Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership will support NHS Health Check delivery in patients with severe mental illness over the coming year, a crucial prevention opportunity.

The funding will enable two Cheshire and Merseyside localities to each receive £37,500 implementation funds to increase the uptake of NHS Health Checks and annual reviews for patients with severe mental illness, helping to reduce health inequalities in a vulnerable patient group.

The two successful localities, to be announced, will be able to use the funding to strengthen existing NHS Health Check delivery models to increase uptake and quality of the intervention with the target population.

The two regions will join three, already identified pilot sites (Halton, Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester), which are focusing on increasing NHS Health Checks in locally identified target groups to reduce inequalities due to factors including deprivation and ethnicity.

Together, the five localities will form a facilitated community of practice with a focus on increasing NHS Health Checks uptake in target groups to reduce inequalities. Lessons and key learning will be shared across the subregion, North West and nationally over 2022.

Dr Mel Roche, Public Health Consultant and Blood Pressure Lead for the Champs Support Team, said:

“Cardiovascular disease is the single biggest area where the NHS can save lives over the next ten years. Patients with severe mental illness have disproportionately poor cardiovascular health and mortality, but lower uptake of prevention opportunities such as NHS Health Checks.

“Restoration of NHS Health Checks, with a targeted focus on vulnerable at-risk patients is a Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership CVD prevention priority. This funding will help local teams to explore innovative ways to strengthen equitable access to prevention services for patients with severe mental illness.”

Procurement of nearly 10,000 additional blood pressure monitors

In addition, the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership’s BP@Home and Hypertension Accelerator programmes have now selected a supplier to provide an additional 9,875 Blood Pressure monitors and an allocation of extra large blood pressure cuffs for the subregion using Digital First Primary Care funding.

This is in addition to the more than 11,000 Blood Pressure monitors already received across Cheshire and Merseyside thanks to the national BP@home programme, close to doubling the number of Blood Pressure machines made available for at-risk patients this year.

Dr Mel Roche added: “At least 41,000 additional high blood pressure patients in Cheshire and Merseyside need improved blood pressure control if we are to meet the national ambition of 80% ‘treated to target’. Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted BP control for many patients and at the same time has driven a shift in how blood pressure care is delivered in general practice; moving from face to face to a ‘virtual first’ approach where possible.

“Further scaling up availability of blood pressure monitors, particularly in areas with high levels of deprivation, will empower thousands more patients to monitor their blood pressure at home and to ‘remotely’ manage their blood pressure in partnership with their local practice. This will help to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and will play an important role in mitigating anticipated winter pressures on health and social care services.”

2020/21 data from general practice shows that over the last year, nationally there has been a 22% reduction in the proportion of known high blood pressure patients who are recorded as ‘treated to target’ (and therefore at lower CVD risk). In Cheshire and Merseyside the reduction has been more pronounced, with a greater than 25% reduction.

This figure is due to a combination of lost opportunities to check and record blood pressure in the last 12 months together with worsening control in hypertension patients.

Dr Mel Roche added: “The additional blood pressure machines are a vital and timely additional resource to help address the devastating impact of the pandemic on blood pressure management and control.”

Monitors will be delivered to all Cheshire and Merseyside Clinical Commissioning Groups between December 2021 and February 2022. As part of the allocation, some machines will be ringfenced for practices identified as outliers for blood pressure control, and the additional machines will support Hypertension Accelerator CCGs (Liverpool, Cheshire and Wirral) to scale up locally piloted digital enablers.

To learn more about the Hypertension Accelerator Project, please contact sally.deacon4@nhs.net