8 March 2019

New Draft Guideline on Hypertension Needs Careful Consideration, Says College

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a new NICE draft guideline on the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension.

She said: "Taking steps to prevent cardiovascular disease in patients is vital to help safeguard their long-term health and wellbeing, and it is a key pledge in the NHS long-term plan. But many GPs do also have concerns about overdiagnosis and the unintended harms of prescribing medication to groups of patients when the benefits may be limited.

"Lowering the threshold for treatment or diagnosis of hypertension, or high blood pressure – a condition that already affects a very large number of patients in the UK - is likely to affect thousands, if not millions of patients, so this decision must not be taken lightly and must be evidence-based.

"Clinical guidelines are regularly updated to take into account the most current research and make recommendations of how to implement it in the best interests of patients. Now that this draft guideline is open for consultation, we would encourage experts in the area to respond to express their views.

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

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

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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.