measuring blood pressureImage copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Vital health checks should be carried out in shops and at football grounds to diagnose people at risk of heart attacks and strokes, NHS chiefs say.

NHS England and Public Health England are urging the novel approach to get more people to come forward for the over-40s checks programme.

Only half of those eligible in England end up getting the regular checks.

Firefighters could even carry them out or refer patients while they do home safety checks, they say.

The health checks were introduced to spot the early signs of conditions such as dementia, diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

They look for conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

But because of the large numbers not taking part in the scheme, there are an estimated 5.5 million people with undiagnosed high blood pressure alone.

The health chiefs believe if everyone entitled to the checks, which are offered at least every five years up to the age of 74, got them, 9,000 heart attacks and 14,000 strokes could be prevented over the next three years.

The checks – organised by council public health teams – are normally done by GPs.

But a number of local authorities have started exploring new ways to carry them out.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Health checks could become more common in supermarkets as part of a push to get more people to come forward for them

In Cheshire, firefighters have been funded to start engaging people about their health and referring them on to services that can help.

In other areas, health staff have offered the checks in public places, including supermarkets, sports grounds and outside schools.

Dr Matt Kearney, from NHS England, said: “We know that much more can be done in communities across the country to prevent thousands of needless deaths each year due to strokes and heart attacks.

“Some parts across the country have already started to use non-traditional ways – and places – to carry out simple health checks, with encouraging results.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said he hoped it would lead to greater awareness about the risk of high blood pressure, the “invisible killer”.

“We want people to be as familiar with their blood pressure numbers as they are with their credit card PIN or their height,” he added.

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