The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has funded Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) to offer blood pressure (BP) checks, advice and signposting as part of the ‘Safe and Well’ visits carried out within the community from January 15th.
The Safe and Well programme builds on the fire service’s established Home Fire Safety Check initiative and supports local health needs by delivering recognized 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 their alcohol consumption and awareness of the National bowel cancer screening programme.
The inclusion of free Blood Pressure checks into the scheme is a result of a partnership with Champs Public Health Collaborative following their successful bid for a BHF grant to support a community based project aimed at preventing, detecting and managing cases of high blood pressure across Cheshire and Merseyside.
The initial 3 month pilot, which launches on Monday (January 15th), will see the ‘Safe and Well’ visits include BP measurement, advice and signposting. The BHF funding has also enabled the relevant MFRS teams to be equipped with standards compliant BP machines, and to receive appropriate training.
BP checks will be offered to residents over 65 and other at risk groups determined by MFRS.
It is estimated that there are 163,000 people in Merseyside with undiagnosed high blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a silent and potentially deadly condition that significantly increases a person’s chance of a heart attack or stroke.
This 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.
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.”
Phil Byrne Station Manager for Community Risk Management with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said: “It is fantastic that we are now able to include the offer of a blood pressure check as part of our Safe & Well visits. Fire & Rescue staff have the unique ability to access homes and engage with vulnerable members of the community that other agencies may not. This places us in a strong positon to support our mission of making our communities safer and stronger, at the same time as supporting the wider health needs of residents.
“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service advocates have been specially trained to deliver the checks and working with our health partners we are able to refer those with high blood pressure to receive the correct help and support. In addition we will be providing advice on how to maintain a healthy Blood Pressure. The Safe & Well programme aims to engage with 10,000 homes in the first year.”
Jenny Hargrave, Director of Innovation and Health Wellbeing at the British Heart Foundation, said:
“High blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. With 16 million people diagnosed in the UK, and many more undiagnosed, there is an urgent need to address this growing epidemic through more research, better detection and treatment.
“It is essential that we have more opportunities to test for high blood pressure in alternative places to GP surgeries, especially in areas where people are more likely to be at risk.
“We are pleased to support this collaboration and are hopeful the project will allow more people to be detected and monitored, which will undoubtedly save lives.”
For free fire safety advice or to request a home fire safety check, call 0800 731 5958.
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service also provides free smoke alarms for Merseyside residents aged 65 or over.