Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Get your blood pressure checked [March 2024]

The press release issued by the Department of Health and Social Care on 11 March 2024.

Millions at risk from ‘silent killer’ as NHS campaign warns there are often ‘no clues’ when it comes to 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
  • New survey data shows that despite the majority of high blood pressure cases being asymptomatic, only one in 14 respondents (7%) thought the condition has no symptoms
  • The Get Your Blood Pressure Checked campaign has been launched to highlight that there are often ‘no clues’ as to who has high blood pressure – backed by Gloria Hunniford and Graeme Souness
  • 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
  • Campaign backed by British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, Heart Research UK, Blood Pressure UK, May Measurement Month, British Society for Heart Failure, and more

Today, the NHS is launching a new national campaign to find the ‘missing millions’ who have undiagnosed high blood pressure.

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 today 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.

Health Minister Andrea Leadsom said:

Millions of adults in England unknowingly have high blood pressure, without experiencing any symptoms. As part of our Pharmacy First programme, the NHS has expanded its pharmacy offering to include 2.5 million more blood pressure checks within local pharmacies.

Knowing if you have a healthy blood pressure is so important and this new drive will help to prevent the potentially fatal consequences of untreated high blood pressure.

I urge people to go to their local pharmacy today to get their blood pressure checked. It could be a life-saving trip.

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.

To encourage more over 40s to come forward for potentially life-saving blood pressure checks, new advertising features a fictional detective struggling to solve the mystery of high blood pressure, due to a lack of ‘clues’ and ‘insufficient evidence’.

The campaign is being backed by Graeme Souness, TV pundit and former footballer, who is affected by high blood pressure and had a heart attack, and Gloria Hunniford, TV presenter and broadcaster, whose dad and husband have suffered strokes.

The pair appear alongside other patients affected by the condition, and pharmacist Deepak Bilakhia, in a mock police line-up to demonstrate how any of us could be unknowingly walking around with the condition.

Gloria Hunniford said:

This campaign is very close to my heart – both my husband and my father sadly suffered from a number of strokes due to high blood pressure, so I know from personal experience just how important it is to get your blood pressure checked, even if you feel healthy.

That’s why I’m so pleased to hear that pharmacies offer free, quick blood pressure checks for people aged 40 and over – thankfully, this really will save lives.

Graeme Souness said:

It’s so important to get your blood pressure checked – in my experience, high blood pressure doesn’t only affect the ‘usual suspects’, it can and does affect anyone so you could be at risk without knowing it.

I’ve had high blood pressure for years but have been able to manage it with a routine of healthy eating, regular fitness and regular blood pressure checks.

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%).

Chief Medical Officer for England Sir Professor Chris Whitty said:

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms but can lead to serious health consequences such as a fatal heart attack, a stroke, kidney disease and vascular dementia.

The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get a simple, non-invasive blood pressure test. Even if you are diagnosed, the good news is that it’s usually easily treatable.

Getting your blood pressure checked at a local pharmacy is free, quick and you don’t even need an appointment, so please go for a check today – it could save your life.

Helen Williams, Pharmacist and National Clinical Director for CVD Prevention, NHS England, said:

It can be easy to dismiss the risks of stroke and heart attack associated with high blood pressure, especially as it often has no signs or symptoms so I would encourage everyone over the age 40 to know their blood pressure numbers.

With thousands of pharmacies across the country now offering free blood pressure checks with healthy living advice, it’s a quick, easy and convenient way to keep on top of your cardiovascular health at a time and place that suits you.

Deepak Bilakhia, a Nottingham-based community pharmacist, said:

Campaigns like this are so important because high blood pressure can be a silent killer and really can affect anyone, including those with no symptoms at all.

Too many people are unaware that pharmacies offer this kind of service, without needing to book an appointment.

So, if you’re 40 and over and have not had a check in the last 6 months, don’t put it off any longer.

Checking your blood pressure at a local pharmacy is so simple to do but could save your life – and your pharmacist is here to help.