Press release

Get your blood pressure checked

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.

Visit the NHS website to find a pharmacy that offers free blood pressure checks near you or search ‘pharmacy blood pressure check’. 

Background information


Download the PR launch photography (sign in required).

The campaign is backed by 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.

The latest drive is part of a national NHS campaign, including new advertising encouraging people eligible to come forward for a free blood pressure test at their local pharmacy, without the need to book in advance. This includes TV, video on demand, outdoor posters, social media and multicultural community TV. 

Visit the NHS website for information about things that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure, as well as diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes.

You can read tips to help with those lifestyle changes or download free NHS apps to lose weight, quit smoking, get active or drink less on the Better Health section of the NHS website.

Case study quotes

Trevor, aged 46, who had a stroke at 43 years old due to high blood pressure, said:

I was shocked to discover I was having a stroke at only 43, I had no idea my blood pressure was high which is what caused it.

I thought I was too young to have a serious health issue like that - I wish I’d found out about it far earlier by having a blood pressure check.

It was scary at the time, but thankfully my blood pressure is managed quite easily now.

But it could have been very different, which is why people shouldn’t put off getting checked at the pharmacy or wait until they have symptoms, as high blood pressure usually has no symptoms.

Justine, aged 54, a single mum who spent a night in hospital as she was in a hypertensive crisis because of high blood pressure, said:

As a single mum, being sent to A&E because my high blood pressure put me in hypertensive crisis - all sorts of things cross your mind. You worry about your kids and you don’t want them to worry about you!

But although it was daunting at the time, I’m so glad it was diagnosed, because with routine medication and a few lifestyle changes, I have very normal blood pressure readings.

It’s not difficult to manage and it certainly doesn’t stop me enjoying life and dancing with my friends! I’d urge anyone who is eligible to get their blood pressure tested at their local pharmacy, because the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to manage.

Lesley, aged 56, who discovered she had ‘near stroke’ level high blood pressure after she popped into a pharmacy for a prescription and was offered the free check, said:

I’m so thankful that I could get a quick blood pressure check at my pharmacy - my reading ended up being so high, I was almost at risk of a stroke, but I was glad I had the chance to take the steps to avoid one.

I never expected to have high blood pressure, because I felt healthy, and expected to see symptoms if there was something wrong. I would urge anyone 40 years and over just to get the check - it’s quick and easy.

Jane, aged 62 and sister of Lesley, was diagnosed with high blood pressure in her 40s. She said:

I didn’t expect to be diagnosed with high blood pressure in my 40s - I didn’t smoke and I was living a healthy lifestyle - so I was really surprised to be getting high readings.

After I was diagnosed, a lot of people told me it could have been a silent killer if I’d have left it, so I’m really grateful I found out when I did, and keep my blood pressure at a normal level thanks to medication.

My younger sister was also recently diagnosed with it too and while it’s not something you are delighted to find out about, it’s so important to know, and it’s quick and easy to get checked at the pharmacy so it can be treated if needed.

Additional quotes

Professor Bryan Williams OBE, chief scientific and medical officer at the British Heart Foundation, said:

If left untreated, high blood pressure is a silent killer. There aren’t usually any symptoms, and it can significantly raise your risk of a life-threatening heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

Concerningly, up to 4.2 million people in England may be living with high blood pressure and don’t know it.

High blood pressure is, however, usually easy to treat, and that’s why it is vital to get yourself checked. Blood pressure tests are very simple and easy - drop into a pharmacy and get yourself tested - it could save your life.

Juliet Bouverie, CEO, Stroke Association, said:

High blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor when it comes to strokes. There are 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK, and someone will have a stroke every 5 minutes.

Getting your blood pressure checked regularly at your local pharmacy is vital to reducing the risk of living with the devastating potential impacts of stroke such as paralysis, vision loss and inability to speak or swallow among others.

Kate Bratt-Farrar, CEO, Heart Research UK, said:

Prevention is vital in helping to reduce the nation’s risk of developing high blood pressure. Eating a balanced, healthy diet, getting plenty of physical activity, as well as avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease or a heart attack.

Knowing your blood pressure level is so important for understanding your risk of cardiovascular disease, and as there are often no symptoms, the only way to know is by getting it checked, which is quick, simple and can be lifesaving.

Dr Pauline Swift, Deputy Chair of Trustees, Blood Pressure UK, said:

Regular blood pressure testing for aged 40 and over is so important. Many in England today are walking around completely unaware that they have high blood pressure and the what the potential risks associated with this are.

Early detection of high blood pressure can in many cases be life-saving, 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.

Professor Neil Poulter, Founder and Chief Investigator at May Measurement Month, said:

Most people with raised blood pressure don’t know they’ve got it, but if left untreated, over time, it leads on to cause heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, heart failure and dementia.

Nobody wants any of these problems, so it makes sense to get your blood pressure checked and if it’s high, it’s usually easily treated to prevent these serious problems from happening.

Blood pressure tends to rise as we get older so all adults, especially those aged 40 and over, should know their blood pressure level.

Blood pressure checks are now available at no cost at local pharmacies - those aged 40 and over should take advantage of this opportunity.

Lynn Mackay-Thomas, CEO, British Society for Heart Failure, said:

We recognise that people who believe they are in relatively good health can be struck down with heart failure, often first diagnosed as an emergency hospital admission.

Earlier detection of heart failure is crucial - over 90% of people with heart failure had high blood pressure in their history, so one of the most important things you can do to protect your heart and try to prevent heart failure, is to get your blood pressure checked at your local pharmacy - then healthcare professionals can diagnose and manage issues before they transform into something more serious.

A blood pressure test could be the difference between life or death.

Attitudinal data 

New research of 2,000 adults over 40 in England, undertaken by Censuswide and commissioned by NHS England, revealed: 

  • just over one in 6 (17%) of those surveyed who have not had their blood pressure checked within the past 2 years decided not to do so because they did not feel unhealthy or stressed
  • 4 in 10 (40%) were unaware that if left untreated, high blood pressure could lead to heart disease
  • nearly a quarter were unaware that if left untreated, high blood pressure could lead to stroke (23%)
  • over half of those surveyed (53%) thought high blood pressure is not easy to treat
  • despite high blood pressure usually presenting no symptoms, very few people (7%) associated the condition with having no symptoms
  • on an annual basis, people were more likely to get their car MOTd (56%), get their boiler serviced (55%) or renew their annual insurances (60%), than they were to get their blood pressure checked (43%)
  • 2 in 5 (44%) were not aware they could get a free blood pressure check at a pharmacy
  • over half were unaware that they do not need an appointment to get a free blood pressure check (59%)

Research methodology 

The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,109 consumers across England aged 40 and over. The data has been weighted to be nationally representative based on age, gender and region. The data was collected between 12 and 19 February 2024. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct and ESOMAR principles. Censuswide is also a member of the British Polling Council. 

Published 11 March 2024