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BACKGROUND: Free blood pressure (BP) checks offered by community pharmacies provide a potentially useful opportunity to diagnose and/or manage hypertension, but the accuracy of the sphygmomanometers in use is currently unknown. AIM: To assess the accuracy of validated automatic BP monitors used for BP checks in a UK retail pharmacy chain. DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional, observational study in 52 pharmacies from one chain in a range of locations (inner city, suburban, and rural) in central England. METHOD: Monitor accuracy was compared with a calibrated reference device (Omron PA-350), at 50 mmHg intervals across the range 0-300 mmHg (static pressure test), with a difference from the reference monitor of +/- 3 mmHg at any interval considered a failure. The results were analysed by usage rates and length of time in service. RESULTS: Of 61 BP monitors tested, eight (13%) monitors failed (that is, were >3 mmHg from reference), all of which underestimated BP. Monitor failure rate from the reference monitor of +/- 3 mmHg at any testing interval varied by length of time in use (2/38, 5% <18 months; 4/14, 29% >18 months, P = 0.038) and to some extent, but non-significantly, by usage rates (4/22, 18% in monitors used more than once daily; 2/33, 6% in those used less frequently, P = 0.204). CONCLUSION: BP monitors within a pharmacy setting fail at similar rates to those in general practice. Annual calibration checks for blood pressure monitors are needed, even for new monitors, as these data indicate declining performance from 18 months onwards.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date





e309 - e314


blood pressure monitors, calibration, community pharmacy services, hypertension, primary health care, Blood Pressure, Blood Pressure Determination, Calibration, Cross-Sectional Studies, England, Female, Humans, Hypertension, Male, Pharmacies, Reproducibility of Results, Sensitivity and Specificity, Sphygmomanometers