Abstract

Background: Cardiovascular disease management in primary care in England was disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Objective: To describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on blood pressure screening and hypertension management, based upon a national quality of care scheme (Quality and Outcomes Framework, QOF) across key demographic, regional, and clinical subgroups. To this end, we translated complex clinical quality of care schemes from text descriptions into reusable analytic code. Methods: With the approval of NHS England, a population based cohort study was conducted on 25.2 million patient records in situ using OpenSAFELY-TPP. We included all NHS patients registered at general practices using TPP software between March 2019 and March 2023. Individuals that were eligible for blood pressure screening and with a diagnosis of hypertension were identified according to the QOF 2021/22 business rules. We examined monthly changes in recorded blood pressure screening in the preceding 5 years in patients aged ≥ 45, recorded hypertension prevalence, and the recorded percentage of patients treated to target (i.e., ≤ 140/90 mmHg for patients ≤ 79 years and ≤ 150/90 mmHg for patients ≥ 80 years) in the preceding 12 months, within demographic, regional, and clinical subgroups as well as the variation across practices. Results: The overall percentage of patients aged ≥ 45 who had blood pressure screening recorded in the preceding 5 years decreased from 90% in March 2019 to 85% in March 2023. Recorded hypertension prevalence was relatively stable at 15% throughout the study period. The percentage of patients with a record of hypertension treated to target in the preceding 12 months reduced from a maximum of 71% in March 2020 to a minimum of 47% in February 2021 in patients aged ≤ 79 years, and from 85% in March 2020 to a minimum of 58% in February 2021 in patients aged ≥ 80 years before recovering. Blood pressure screening rates in the preceding 5 years remained stable in older age groups, patients with a record of learning disability, or care home status. Conclusion: There was substantial disruption to hypertension management QOF indicators during the pandemic, which can likely be attributed to a general reduction of blood pressure measurement including screening. OpenSAFELY can be used to continuously monitor monthly changes in national quality of care schemes to identify changes in key clinical subgroups early and support prioritisation of recovery from disrupted care caused by COVID-19.