Research Article

Individual variation between general practitioners in labelling of hypertension.

BMJ 1990; 300 doi: (Published 13 January 1990) Cite this as: BMJ 1990;300:74
  1. T D Smith,
  2. D Clayton
  1. Department of Community Health, Leicester Royal Infirmary.


    Variation in labelling of hypertension by individual general practitioners was studied during a continuous opportunistic screening programme for hypertension in a single general practice with 12 principals. All the general practitioners agreed to label as hypertensive patients with systolic pressures of greater than or equal to 200 mm Hg or diastolic pressures of greater than or equal to 110 mm Hg on three consecutive readings. The overall number of patients labelled hypertensive at the beginning of the screening programme was 505 and this rose to 801 after five years. There was a large variation in the numbers of patients recorded as hypertensive at the start of the screening period, with numbers ranging from eight to 112 for individual practitioners. The variation persisted during the screening period, with the numbers of patients detected by individual general practitioners ranging from four to 46. The average systolic and diastolic pressures recorded among these patients also varied between doctors, and only 24 out of 187 patients had their high pressures recorded on three occasions and so fully met the criteria for diagnosing hypertension. Clearly, general practitioners are following their own individual criteria in defining hypertension and taking into account factors other than just the measured blood pressure.