Why tackling high blood pressure is crucial to improving the nation’s heart health

24 January 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

Our Director of Innovation in Health and Wellbeing, Jenny Hargrave, blogs about how our research is helping to improve detection and management of high blood pressure and develop new testing models.

High blood pressure is the largest known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and affects more than 1 in 4 adults in England. For every 10 people diagnosed with high blood pressure, 7 remain undiagnosed and untreated - accounting for more than 5.5 million people in England.

Silent Killer

High blood pressure rarely causes symptoms yet it is the second biggest single risk factor for premature death and disability in England. In 2015 it was responsible for around 75,000 deaths.

Health Matters

As a key member of the Public Health England Blood Pressure System Leadership Board, we have formed a close working relationship with Public Health England (PHE) and its partners.

This month, we have been working with PHE on the latest edition of Health Matters – a professional resource – which highlights how local authorities, primary care teams, pharmacists and community services can improve the prevention, detection and management of high blood pressure.

We believe that a system leadership approach is key to the driving a strong influencing voice, harnessing robust evidence that helps drive system change and development of new and effective models of care.

Taking action

The BHF has a long history of investment into blood pressure research and is currently funding around £21m in this area. This includes fundamental laboratory science through to clinical research. Over the past 5 financial years, we have awarded 74 grants supporting research into blood pressure totalling around £25m.

In 2015 we commenced a five year programme of work aimed at tackling high blood pressure. This programme is gathering pace, with a number of key projects in progress, many of which we are delivering in partnership with other Blood Pressure System Leadership Board member organisations.

Support for professionals

In November 2016, we launched High Blood Pressure – How Can We Do Better? a suite of resources for each of the clinical commissioning group (CCG) in England. These highlight their current status around blood pressure detection and management - identifying gains that can be made by lowering blood pressure and offering practical tips from healthcare professionals on how local blood pressure outcomes can be improved. This resource was developed in partnership with PHE, NCVIN, Stroke Association, BIHS, Blood Pressure UK and the CVD Primary Care Leadership Forum.

We are also undertaking a review of all blood pressure resources and building a designated Blood Pressure Resource Hub on our website. This hub will provide a structured, clear pathway for the public, patients, healthcare professionals, commissioners and service providers to access updated and relevant blood pressure resources.

New ways of testing

We are committed to building and implementing research into practice, providing funding and expertise to support projects which test new models of care. Evaluation of these projects helps to build an evidence base and develop tools, resources and thought leadership which supports the spread and adoption of best practice across the UK and more widely.

We recently launched a UK wide Blood Pressure Award programme to develop and test the implementation into practice of community blood pressure testing models. This project has a particular focus on collaborative system leadership and integrated approaches to detection and management of high blood pressure in areas of health inequality and high CVD prevalence. Following the first round of funding applications we hope to make award decisions in late March 2017 with a second application round to be announced in the new financial year.

The future

Looking forward, planning is well underway for a national Blood Pressure Conference in 2017. A group of key stakeholders from the Blood Pressure systems leadership board which is chaired by Dr Matt Kearney, NHS England National Clinical Director for CVD Prevention. The conference aims to bring together healthcare professionals and commissioners across primary and secondary care, with a common interest in hypertension to consider system challenges and share evidence and new models of care which can deliver service improvement across England and more widely.

The programme will use the lens of patient experience, with each section of the agenda introduced by short patient videos. The films will highlight sub-optimal versus optimal blood pressure detection and management, with the underlying focus on opportunities for ‘How we can do better’.

The conference will be held in April/May 2018.