When measuring blood pressure, the “white coat” effect is not a new phenomenon – it’s been known about for almost a century. When patients go to see their doctor, many are understandably anxious and this raises their blood pressure. Hence the name “white coat” – although the uniform has now changed to green pyjamas, or jeans and open neck shirts. The guidance to doctors is to give the patient time to sit down and relax before taking blood pressure (at least 3 minutes), but in these pill-popping, no-hand-washing, express delivery days, time is at a premium.
So it is not a great surprise to now find that up to 3 million people may have been misdiagnosed and are needlessly taking pills for high blood pressure for the rest of their lives.
Don’t stop taking the pills, it could save you from a stroke or a heart attack, but it might be worth having your blood pressure checked again.
The cost to the NHS of hypertension drugs is £1billion a year. A quarter of patients are known to become anxious when having blood pressure measured, so there is a big saving to be made from getting right. New guidelines have been proposed which recommend patients take their own blood pressure at home with a machine that monitors them for 24 hours. This gives much more accurate readings and should lead to fewer errors in diagnosis.
- In industry, error rates are measured in defects per thousand (or per million in Japan).
- In the commercial sector customer complaint levels are expected to be no more than 1 or 2 in a hundred.
- In this part of the NHS Service, it seems that error rates of 1 in 4 have been tolerated for a long time at a huge cost in waste. It also increases anxiety to patients, who may have been incorrectly treated for many years.
Now – the solution is do-it-yourself !
There is certainly a lot of recent evidence to support that view as far as the treatment and care of the elderly is concerned.
So, if this level of error is common in the NHS, why stop with blood pressure ?
- Go to your local M.o.T. approved garage and have your blood tested.
- Maybe get your M.R.I. scan in a photo booth at Asda?
- How about getting your own X-rays in the Clarks shoe shop.
- Then you could go to B & Q to get the tools you need to fix-your-own fractures.
- Call in to Hobby Craft to get some coloured playdoh for your D-I-Y plaster cast .
- Buy a needle and thread for your sew-it-yourself stitches, or just drop in to the dress makers, or even the local shoe repair shop.