Objective To review trials of nurse led interventions for hypertension in primary care to clarify the evidence base, establish whether nurse prescribing is an important intervention, and identify areas requiring further study.
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Data sources Ovid Medline, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, British Nursing Index, Cinahl, Embase, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and the NHS Economic Evaluation Database.
Study selection Randomised controlled trials of nursing interventions for hypertension compared with usual care in adults.
Data extraction Systolic and diastolic blood pressure, percentages reaching target blood pressure, and percentages taking antihypertensive drugs. Intervention effects were calculated as relative risks or weighted mean differences, as appropriate, and sensitivity analysis by study quality was undertaken.
Data synthesis Compared with usual care, interventions that included a stepped treatment algorithm showed greater reductions in systolic blood pressure (weighted mean difference −8.2 mm Hg, 95% confidence interval −11.5 to −4.9), nurse prescribing showed greater reductions in blood pressure (systolic −8.9 mm Hg, −12.5 to −5.3 and diastolic −4.0 mm Hg, −5.3 to −2.7), telephone monitoring showed higher achievement of blood pressure targets (relative risk 1.24, 95% confidence interval 1.08 to 1.43), and community monitoring showed greater reductions in blood pressure (weighted mean difference, systolic −4.8 mm Hg, 95% confidence interval −7.0 to −2.7 and diastolic −3.5 mm Hg, −4.5 to −2.5).
Conclusions Nurse led interventions for hypertension require an algorithm to structure care. Evidence was found of improved outcomes with nurse prescribers from non-UK healthcare settings. Good quality evidence from UK primary health care is insufficient to support widespread employment of nurses in the management of hypertension within such healthcare systems.