Published On: 13 March 2024Tags: , ,

The NHS has this week launched a new national campaign to find the ‘missing millions’ who have undiagnosed high blood pressure. 

– Up to 4.2 million people in England could be living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, according to NHS
– The ‘silent killer’ often has no symptoms but if left untreated, can lead to fatal heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and vascular dementia
– With the NHS expanding blood pressure checks in community pharmacies – including capacity for an additional 2.5 million tests – the national campaign is urging those aged 40 years and over to get a free blood pressure test at a participating pharmacy

High blood pressure, often described as a ‘silent killer’, affects an estimated 32% of adults. As the condition rarely has any symptoms, approximately 3 in 10 of these remain undiagnosed, equating to 4.2 million people in England. The public are being warned that there are often ‘no clues’ about who might have high blood pressure – the only way to know is to have a simple test.

With the NHS announcing an additional 2.5 million blood pressure checks in community pharmacies over this year and next, those aged 40 years and over are now being urged to get a free blood pressure test at a participating pharmacy. The procedure is quick, non-invasive and you do not need to book in advance. 

This comes as new survey data reveals widespread misconceptions about the condition among those at risk. Despite the majority of high blood pressure cases being asymptomatic, only one in 14 respondents (7%) thought the condition has no symptoms. The survey also revealed one in 6 (17%) of those surveyed have been put off having a blood pressure check because they do not feel unhealthy or stressed. 

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and vascular dementia. However, the survey of over 2,000 adults aged 40 and over revealed worrying numbers who do not know the potentially fatal effects of high blood pressure – with 4 in 10 (41%) unaware that, if left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, and over a fifth (22%) being unaware that it can cause strokes and heart attacks. 

It is hoped that the campaign will urge those at risk to prioritise getting their blood pressure checked, even if they have no symptoms – after the survey revealed that blood pressure checks are low on the list of people’s annual priorities. The majority of those at risk currently prioritise annual tasks such as getting their car MOTd (56%), getting their boiler serviced (55%) or renewing insurances (60%), above checking their blood pressure (43%) – despite its life-saving potential. 

Meanwhile 2 in 5 (44%) were not aware they could get a free blood pressure check at a pharmacy, with even more being unaware that they do not need an appointment (59%). 

Visit the NHS website to find a pharmacy that offers free blood pressure checks near you or search ‘pharmacy blood pressure check’ or for more information about things that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure, as well as diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes.

Campaign background information

The campaign is backed by the Race Equality Foundation, as well as the British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, Heart Research UK, Blood Pressure UK, May Measurement Month, British Society for Heart Failure, and more.

High blood pressure is one of the largest known risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), which causes one in 4 deaths in England – around one death every 4 minutes.

All adults should have a check at least once every 5 years but are eligible for a free check at any time provided that they have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure or had a check in the last 6 months. 

The ’Get Your Blood Pressure Checked’ drive supports the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan, which focuses on tackling health inequalities and the prevention of ill health and aims to prevent 150,000 strokes, heart attacks and dementia over the course of 10 years by raising awareness and diagnosis of high blood pressure. With CVD-related healthcare costs alone in England amounting to an estimated £7.4 billion per year, and annual costs to the wider economy being an estimated £15.8 billion, this new initiative could save millions of lives and pounds.