WATCH: ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw reports on the new vehicle in the drive for a healthier population
Hundreds of people have climbed aboard a specially-adapted London bus for a free health check, as part of a new trial.
The old Routemaster is being used by the NHS in Kent as a ‘one-stop shop’ for people to access health and wellbeing services.
Nurses and pharmacists are on hand to check people’s blood pressure, heart health and body mass index, with Covid-19 vaccinations also available to those eligible.
The double-decker has parked up in various town centre locations – including supermarket car parks and shopping precincts – to offer a free walk-in service, with no appointment necessary.
Those behind the project insist it is not designed to replace existing services, but to complement them.
Chair of NHS Kent and Medway, Cedi Frederick, said: “The opportunity for people to come to the bus, meet our wonderful staff, talk in a comfortable environment without the pressure of the next appointment behind me… It just gives people a real opportunity to talk much more about their overall health and wellbeing.”
“From my point of view as Chair, it's really important that we do as much in the preventative space as possible to reduce the pressure over time on the frontline services that people know are currently strained.”
Since the bus started its county-wide tour five weeks ago, it has clocked up 1,229 health checks, 252 vaccinations, 25 weight management referrals and 31 medication reviews.
The nurses, pharmacists and healthcare assistants on board can also refer patients to other services, if any concerns are identified.
WATCH: Cedi Frederick, Chair of NHS Kent and Medway
Staff say they are “very pleased” with the level of public interest, with more than 70 health checks being carried out in one day alone.
Clinical Pharmacist Tonye Oburoh, who helps run the service, said: “We had a gentleman; his blood pressure was raised, he hadn't been seen for over two years because of Covid.
“We checked his pulse, we found that the pulse was irregular and we did a referral to the GP and as a result he was diagnosed with angina and atrial fibrillation.
“He came back two weeks later to say that he was seen quite quickly… and he had started his medications. So we’re already having people coming back to see us, just to say ‘thank you’.”
The bus has already visited Strood and Chatham, and is scheduled to stop off at locations in Maidstone, Lydd, Herne Bay and Sheerness before the end of March, when the scheme is due to come to an end.
Given its popularity, health leaders say they’re currently in discussions about whether it should become a permanent part of Kent’s healthcare landscape.