A blood pressure pilot programme has been established in Keighley to provide guidance to residents on preventing high blood pressure and related future illnesses.

Known as ‘Blood Pressure Connect,’ the programme has been developed by Keighley Healthy Living, a charity that supports the Keighley community. It is funded by Heart Research UK and receives support from GP practice groups Wharfedale Airedale Craven Alliance (WACA) and Modality AWC.

In the UK, high blood pressure (hypertension) ranks as the third leading cause of premature death, following smoking and poor diet. It is also the largest known single risk factor for cardiovascular disease and related disabilities, with 50% of heart attacks and strokes associated with the condition.

Within the Bradford district, a higher number of people under 75 are likely to face serious illnesses from cardiovascular disease compared to the national average. Keighley, in particular, has one of the highest numbers of people living with high blood pressure in the area.

To address this issue, between September 2022 and September 2023, Modality and WACA GP practices sent letters to patients in Keighley with stage one hypertension, inviting them to participate in the project. Those who registered were offered an initial appointment with healthcare practitioners from Keighley Healthy Living, such as an exercise coordinator and lifestyle change coach. During these sessions, participants learned about high blood pressure, its impact on health, and how it can be managed through medication, behavior, and lifestyle changes.

Following the educational sessions, participants underwent a health assessment that measured blood pressure, Body Mass Index, alcohol and nicotine use, and physical activity levels. They identified desired lifestyle changes and were supported in accessing community-based, free, or low-cost health and care support related to diet, physical activity, and social and mental health. Participants were also provided with a blood pressure monitor to enable them to regularly measure their blood pressure at home.

One participant said: “The programme was brilliant; it was really informative and an eye-opener for me.”

Helen Maguire, Project Development Manager at Keighley Healthy Living, said: “The programme has demonstrated the value of embedding health initiatives at a grassroots level within the community. Working together with partners using a holistic approach has proven to be a key element in supporting those living with raised blood pressure in Keighley.

“Our support takes into consideration the determinants of health and removing barriers which can prevent the self-management of the condition. 61 people registered on the programme and the outcomes were positive: 94% of people who completed the programme made at least one lifestyle change, and 70% of people saw a reduction in blood pressure.”

A local campaign, ‘It’s a GP Practice Thing’, aims to increase public awareness of how GP practices are working, including community based, non-medical support services which are available to help meet people’s needs.