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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Many sphygmos are 'unfit for purpose' despite quality stamp

Many GPs are using non-

mercury sphygmomanometers that are 'unfit for purpose' because a mandatory quality stamp is meaningless, warn Government advisers.

Minutes from a Department of Health committee on the phasing out of mercury-based blood pressure monitors

reveal that replacement electronic devices do not have

to achieve any standard of

accuracy to gain the CE mark. This is required for any device sold in the EU.

The committee on blood pressure monitoring devices in clinical practice has already advised that GPs are unaware of dangerous inaccuracies in some devices (Pulse, April 19).

Committee chair Professor Andrew Shennan said there was evidence that 'GPs are currently using inappropriate machines to monitor blood pressure in some instances'.

The problem of inaccurate devices was a big issue: 'Most automated devices out there aren't that good,' he told Pulse.

Professor Shennan, director of the maternal and fetal research unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London, said: 'It wasn't all that long ago that I realised the CE marking isn't as robust as it could be.'

Professor Shennan's committee is overseeing the switch from the 120,000 mercury devices – containing a total 10.2 tonnes of mercury – still in use in the UK.

Although the change was not mandatory, it was likely to proceed unchecked because of environmental benefits, he said.

Dr Terry McCormack, deputy-chair of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society and a GP in Whitby, North Yorkshire, argued that there were standards in the form of British Hypertension Society-recommended devices.

'These are all you can go on at the moment – something is better than nothing.'

By Rob Finch

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