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How complaints are 'tearing GPs to shreds'

GPs are finding it much tougher to hit quality targets for blood pressure in women than in men, a new study reveals.

Researchers uncovered 'a significant gender-based inequality' after auditing 10,836 patients last October, seven months into the new contract.

The audit of 33 general practices uncovered no obvious differences in prescribing in men and women, although the researchers said they could not rule out inequity in care.

Some 70 per cent of male patients were being controlled to the contract standard of 150/90 mmHg, but only 63 per cent of women were.

The researchers warned that the difference was stark enough to 'significantly worsen' women's morbidity and mortality from CHD.

Study leader Dr Mark Lambert, director of public health at Gateshead PCT, said the reason for the difference had not been established. He urged GPs to audit their own practice data through QMAS to uncover similar inequalities.

'We have to look at whether all the opportunities for blood pressure control in women are being used,' he said.

Cardiovascular experts said the results were surprising and worrying. Dr Terry McCormack, deputy chair of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society and a GP in Whitby, North Yorkshire, said it was possible women were responding less well to antihypertensive drugs.

Professor Peter Sever, member of the British Hypertension Society's guidelines committee, said: 'These results are a matter of concern. There's a feeling women are less at risk than men and that women are less well treated.'

Professor Sever, professor of clinical pharmacology at Imperial College London, said he had seen some previous data suggesting older women with hypertension might be less well controlled than men.

Dr Gerald Partridge, CHD lead at Airedale PCT and a GP in Keighley, West Yorkshire, said the study was 'intriguing'. He suggested GPs check their records to ensure women were not under-treated.

The study appeared as a research letter in April's British Journal of General Practice.

By Nerys Hairon

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