The annual health survey for England has revealed that 2006 saw a large rise in the number of people with high blood pressure going untreated.

The biggest increase in untreated hypertension was among women aged 45-54. The last health survey in 2005 found just 11.2 per cent of those with high blood pressure were not receiving treatment. By 2006 this had risen to 16.4 per cent.

The health survey is based on nurse consultations with more than 14,000 adults. It found that, after a steady decrease in the number with untreated high blood pressure since 1998, 2006 saw a significant reversal.

Taking men and women together, the percentage of 45 to 54-year-olds with untreated high blood pressure rose by a third from 2005-06 from 14.8 per cent to 19.5 per cent.

A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation told HSJ that the survey showed that the biggest increase in untreated high blood pressure was among women from lower socio-economic groups.

She said: "This could be due to a number of reasons including poor access to diagnosis and treatment. It does appear that health inequalities are worsening and this needs to be addressed in order to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke in those most at risk."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We will be looking at the survey data in more detail. The data we have from the quality and outcomes framework of the GP contract suggests that primary care has been performing better and better, year on year, in identifying people with hypertension and treating them to target."