Sainsbury’s is trialling a new service at 30 of its pharmacy stores to offer customers advice on early detection and prevention of illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as encouraging weight loss.

The Healthy Living Plan will test customers’ cholesterol, BMI and blood pressure and record waist measurements. For £40 customers receive three consecutive monthly follow-up consultations lasting 45 minutes each. Each session takes place in a private consultation room.

Jat Sahota, category manager for Sainsbury’s Pharmacy, explained that if the trial is a success, the retailer will extend the service to all of its 300 pharmacies. Sahota believes the programme will offer customers “greater flexibility and accessibility” than visiting a GP’s surgery as customers can combine appointments with shopping trips.

The NHS Health Check is a similar risk assessment and management programme for people in England aged between 40 and 74. In April 2013 local authorities become responsible for commissioning the NHS Health Check, and Sainsbury’s believes its pilot scheme will highlight the role pharmacists can play in the provision of such services.

Asked whether Sainsbury’s will seek to become a third-party supplier to the NHS, a spokesperson for the supermarket said: “At this stage Sainsbury’s are focussed on making sure the pilot programme of the Healthy Living Plan is successful. However, of course they will remain open to ideas on how the plan could be further developed in the future.”

Wells Family Challenge

In November 2011 Sainsbury’s, in partnership with the independent health think tank 2020 Health, launched the Wells Family Challenge, pairing 10 families with 10 regional Sainsbury’s pharmacists.

Each adult member of the families met 12 times over the course of a year with their pharmacist who after an initial consultation offered basic health checks and advice.

The findings of the study were published on Thursday (14 March), and found that 65% of participants had lost weight over the course of the challenge. Sixty-eight percent had unhealthy levels of cholesterol at the start of the challenge but by the end this had halved to 32%. Of those found to have high cholesterol, 81% were not previously aware that they had high levels.

The report also found that 58% of participants had reduced their risk of stroke or heart attack within the next 10 years, using the QRISK prediction algorithm for calculating risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

Health minister Lord Howe hailed the results of the Wells Family Challenge: “We welcome this initiative as an excellent example of pharmacists developing innovative new services to help families improve their health and lead healthier lives.”