First changes in 100 years to method for checking high blood
24 August 2011
The way blood pressure is diagnosed and treated is set to be
revolutionised following new guidelines issued by the National Institute
for Clinical excellence (NICE) and developed in conjunction with the
British Hypertension Society (BHS).
It will mark the first time in over a century that the way blood
pressure is routinely monitored by GPs has been changed.
A major feature of the new guideline is the recommendation that
high blood pressure should be diagnosed using ambulatory blood
pressure monitoring, a technique in which the patient wears a
monitor for 24 hours to gauge how high their blood pressure is.
University of Leicester Professor Bryan Williams Chaired the NICE
hypertension guideline. He believes this new approach will mean that
as many as 25% of people diagnosed as having high blood pressure
using the current method of diagnosis, ie repeated measurement of
blood pressure in the doctor's clinic, may not be hypertensive and
may not need treatment.
"This new guideline is going to change the way blood pressure is
diagnosed and treated for millions of people in the UK and around
the world. The new approach will be more accurate in diagnosing high
blood pressure and will ensure that the right people get treated.
“We are using new technologies to improve the way we diagnose
high blood pressure. It means that we will be more accurate in
treating those who need treatment and in avoiding treating those who
In accompanying research published simultaneously in the Lancet,
the guideline group demonstrated that this new approach is highly
cost-effective and even after taking account of the cost of the new
technology, is likely to be cost saving for the NHS.
“Even though these new devices cost between £1,000 - £2,000, our
analyses suggest that by improving the speed and accuracy of
diagnosis, we will actually save money by only targeting treatment
at those who need and will benefit from treatment — this is good
news for patients. I am under no illusions about the challenges to
implement this but I believe this guideline will be well received by
both doctors and patients not just in England and Wales, but
worldwide,” said Professor Williams, Professor of Medicine at the
University and an honorary consultant physician at the University
Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
The new guideline also simplifies the treatment strategy for high
blood pressure, focussing on the most effective treatments and also
contains specific advice on the treatment of blood pressure in young
adults and the very elderly.
Professor Williams added: "We have spent more than a year looking
at masses of new evidence from studies in great detail before coming
to our conclusions. I think the UK is leading the world in
developing bold and progressive treatment strategies for high blood
pressure. The importance of this cannot be overstated for two
reasons, first because high blood pressure is very common and
affects about a quarter of all adults and more than half of adults
over the age of 60yrs, and second, because treating high blood
pressure is one of the most effective ways of reducing the risks of
heart disease and stroke.”
Leicester is one of the leading high blood pressure centres in
Europe and a designated European centre of Excellence.
Professor Bryan Williams was Chairman of the NICE hypertension
guideline development group and led the development of this new
guidance. He is Professor of Medicine at the University of Leicester
and internationally recognised as a world authority of high blood
pressure. He is a NIHR senior Investigator and leads the
hypertension research programme within the Leicester NIHR Biomedical
Research Unit in Cardiovascular Disease.
The guideline, The clinical management of primary hypertension in
adults, is available from Wednesday 24 August on the NICE website at