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New stroke prevention partnership is prescription for success

Pharmacy customers in Knowsley are being offered a free pulse check as part of a project to reduce the number of strokes in the region.

Ten community pharmacists in Knowsley are helping to detect atrial fibrillation – an irregular pulse which can lead to life-threatening strokes.

The first of its kind in the UK, the project is being led by the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, and is supported by NHS Knowsley CCG, Local Pharmaceutical Committee and Pharmacy Local Professional Network.

As part of its programme to reduce AF-related strokes in the region, the Innovation Agency is working in partnership with a number of organisations, distributing mobile ECG devices that can detect an irregular pulse, one of the symptoms of AF.

As qualified healthcare professionals, community pharmacists already provide a wide range of health and wellbeing advice and are perfectly placed to test pulses in their communities and advise on medicines.

The pharmacists will test customers’ pulses while they wait for prescriptions and signpost people with an irregular pulse to their GP. Should customers be diagnosed with AF, the pharmacist can offer advice on how to manage the condition with medication and lifestyle support.

John Davey, a qualified pharmacist and founder of Davey’s Chemists, is offering pulse checks at his pharmacy on Dinas Lane in Huyton.

He said: “It makes sense for pharmacists to get involved because we understand the health needs of the people in our communities and they know and trust us.

“I personally jumped at the chance to get involved because I have members of my own family with the condition. Plus, prior to this initiative, one of our customers was diagnosed with AF on a Tuesday and was due to start anticoagulation on the following Friday, but in the meantime, she had a severe stroke.

“So having seen the impact it can have first-hand, my team and I welcome the chance to screen for AF. This early intervention can make a real difference in preventing serious risk of stroke.

“It’s great that Knowsley is the vanguard for this Community Pharmacy AF Pilot Project.”

John Radcliffe, a customer at Davey’s Chemist, had his pulse checked while he was waiting for his prescription.

He said: “I think it’s brilliant that we get to chat about our health with the pharmacists. I’ve been coming here for years so I know all the staff and it saves me having to book a doctor’s appointment.

“It’s a good idea to get your pulse checked as most people don’t realise they’ve got AF, but if they detect it early, something can be done about it.”

So far, the Innovation Agency has trained 30 community pharmacists to use MyDiagnostick and Kardia Alivecor devices which can detect an irregular heart rhythm and are easy to use.

From now on, when Knowsley residents pop into participating pharmacies for a bottle of cough medicine, they can take advantage of a free pulse check which takes just 60 seconds and could save them from a life-threatening stroke.

Anyone with a positive result will be signposted to their GP for further investigation. Once diagnosed, AF can be easily treated with anticoagulant medication but if left untreated, the condition can cause severe strokes or even death.

Dr Julia Reynolds, Associate Director and Head of Programmes at the Innovation Agency, said: “Many people are unaware that they have AF which is why the Innovation Agency is working with partners to test as many people as possible to find those missing people with unidentified AF and get them treated as quickly as possible to prevent strokes.

“We are delighted to be working with the community pharmacies in Knowsley. This project is a good example of collaborative working between NHS, businesses, pharmacies, patients and GPs and will no doubt have a real impact on stroke prevention.”

If you would like to find out more contact Helen Beaumont-Kellner on 07950 870037 or email

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