NHS urges over-40s to get free blood pressure checks

The NHS has launched 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 percent of adults. As the condition rarely has any symptoms, approximately three in 10 of these remain undiagnosed, equating to 4.2 million people in England.

The public is 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 don’t 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 percent) thought the condition has no symptoms. The survey also revealed one in six (17 percent) of those surveyed have been put off having a blood pressure check because they don’t feel unhealthy or stressed.

MP 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 lifesaving 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 don’t know the potentially fatal effects of high blood pressure – with four in 10 (41 percent) unaware that, if left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, and over a fifth (22 percent) being unaware that it can cause strokes and heart attacks. The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,109 consumers across England aged 40+. The data has been weighted to be nationally representative based on age, gender, and region.

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.

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 MOT’d (56 percent), getting their boiler serviced (55 percent), or renewing insurance (60 percent), above checking their blood pressure (43 percent) – despite its life-saving potential. Meanwhile, two in five (44 percent) 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 percent).

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.”


Dr Pauline Swift, Deputy Chair of Trustees, Blood Pressure UK, said: “Regular blood pressure testing for those aged 40 and over is so important. Many in England today are walking around completely unaware that they have high blood pressure and what the potential risks associated with this are. Early detection of high blood pressure can in many cases be lifesaving, and we would highly encourage those who are eligible to get down to their local pharmacy as soon as possible to get this simple test.”