A large-scale overhaul of how blood pressure is dealt with by the NHS is being developed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
Changes put forward in draft guidelines, which are subject to a consultation, would see a more accurate testing method used to reduce the number of patients aged under 40 being told they have blood pressure problems.
The new guidance, which will see people test themselves at home over 24 hours, was developed by a team led by University of Leicester medicine professor Bryan Williams. He said they would save money over the long-term but the more accurate equipment involved could not be provided straight away.
Professor Williams said, at the moment, people have to visit doctors several times for blood pressure readings before there is an accurate picture of their situation, with younger people likely to appear as though they suffer abnormally high blood pressure when that is not the case.
He said: “As many as 25% of young people might record having high blood pressure when they go to the doctor when they actually don’t have it.
“This is much more likely to happen when you are younger. When you are older, you are more likely to be hypertensive but, if you are at the margins and particularly if you are younger, then there’s a big error rate with diagnosis.
“We don’t want young people not to get treatment but the evidence shows that if you used ambulatory testing before you treat, you would get the correct diagnosis more often.”
The new guidelines will provide a cost-saving because they will cut the amount that needs to be spent on treatments. But Professor Williams warned:”There’s undoubtedly going to be a medium to short-term implementation issue.”
The UK has 8.5 million patients being treated for high blood pressure but it is thought there are many more sufferers who remain unaware of their condition.
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“Our commissioning consortium took the decision a couple of years ago to purchase 24-hour ABP machines for all member practices as we felt it was important to address exactly this issue” – Jeannie Bee, Lincolnshire