13 March 2018

Decision to Extend Blood Pressure Drugs to More Patients 'Should Not Be Taken Lightly', Says RCGP

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"High blood pressure, or hypertension, already affects a very large number of patients in the UK. Lowering the threshold for making the diagnosis of any condition is a significant decision, that will affect thousands, if not millions of patients, and must not be taken lightly.

"One concern GPs already have is overdiagnosis - where we are giving a label to a situation thereby medicalising it, and prescribing medications when the benefits to the individual patient may be very limited. This can be harmful for patients both in terms of causing unnecessary anxiety, and in terms of taking medication that they might not need.

"We know that weight control, careful diet, and better exercise habits remain key ways to prevent or reduce hypertension. GPs readily advocate healthy lifestyle changes and discuss these with their patients where possible within the constraints of a standard 10-minute appointment.

"Nevertheless, it is important that clinical guidelines are updated to take into account the most current research and make recommendations of how to implement it in the best interests of patients. If NICE review current guidelines and consider lowering the threshold for hypertension, then this will be put forward for consultation and experts in the area will be encouraged to express their views.

"Patients should be aware that clinical guidelines are very useful for GPs when developing treatment plans, but they are not tramlines. GPs are highly trained to prescribe taking into account the circumstances of the individual patient sitting in front of them, including physical, physiological and social factors that might be affecting their health."

Further Information
RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633/7410
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.