Professor Kevin Fenton
Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England
High blood pressure is often dubbed the silent killer because so many people don’t know they have it and yet it can lead to a number of fatal conditions. It affects more than one in four adults in England, and is the second biggest risk factor for premature death and disability.
Improvements in tackling blood pressure in the last decade have prevented or postponed many thousands of deaths, but at present only four in ten of all adults with high blood pressure are both aware of their condition and managing it to the levels recommended. Compared to international leaders (in particular Canada, and the USA), there is much room for improvement.
Addressing this is morally imperative to improve our nation’s health, and a smart move to reduce the financial pressure on our NHS – diseases caused by high blood pressure are estimated to cost more than £2bn each year, and treating the condition in its own right costs more still.
That is why Public Health England is working with a range of partners to tackle the problem of high blood pressure. A new group has come together from across local and national government, the NHS, the third sector and academia to push forward a collective programme of work on blood pressure.
We are proud to launch Tackling High Blood Pressure: From Evidence into Action this week. The aim of our plan is to improve the country’s record on prevention, early detection and treatment. Informed by the evidence and expertise of our group, including new economic analysis, we set out where the opportunities for practical improvement are greatest and some first steps partners are taking to address this.
From tackling the key lifestyle behaviours which lead to high blood pressure (reducing salt in the national diet and tackling obesity), to making the most of opportunities to test blood pressure (in primary care and beyond, including the NHS Health Check), to supporting both patients and clinicians to ensure treatment is in line with guidelines.
We know from international experience that the key to success will be sustained leadership and focus on the issue – in particular at the local level. We intend through our work to support the local leaders – be they health professionals of all kinds, local government or charity leaders, or even employers – to take this opportunity to reduce avoidable mortality. From our plan, to our resource hub, data project, and economic materials, we are already starting to offer this support. But this is only the start.
Getting prevention, detection and treatment right can’t be done by one institution or one service alone – we all have a role to play. I invite wider colleagues to join with us to tackle high blood pressure.