Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background Long-term monitoring is important in chronic condition management. Despite considerable costs of monitoring, there is no or poor evidence on how, what and when to monitor. The aim of this study was to improve understanding, methods, evidence base and practice of clinical monitoring in primary care, focusing on two areas: chronic kidney disease and chronic heart failure. Objectives The research questions were as follows: does the choice of test affect better care while being affordable to the NHS? Can the number of tests used to manage individuals with early-stage kidney disease, and hence the costs, be reduced? Is it possible to monitor heart failure using a simple blood test? Can this be done using a rapid test in a general practitioner consultation? Would changes in the management of these conditions be acceptable to patients and carers? Design Various study designs were employed, including cohort, feasibility study, Clinical Practice Research Datalink analysis, seven systematic reviews, two qualitative studies, one cost-effectiveness analysis and one cost recommendation. Setting This study was set in UK primary care. Data sources Data were collected from study participants and sourced from UK general practice and hospital electronic health records, and worldwide literature. Participants The participants were NHS patients (Clinical Practice Research Datalink: 4.5 million patients), chronic kidney disease and chronic heart failure patients managed in primary care (including 750 participants in the cohort study) and primary care health professionals. Interventions The interventions were monitoring with blood and urine tests (for chronic kidney disease) and monitoring with blood tests and weight measurement (for chronic heart failure). Main outcome measures The main outcomes were the frequency, accuracy, utility, acceptability, costs and cost-effectiveness of monitoring. Results Chronic kidney disease: serum creatinine testing has increased steadily since 1997, with most results being normal (83% in 2013). Increases in tests of creatinine and proteinuria correspond to their introduction as indicators in the Quality and Outcomes Framework. The Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration equation had 2.7% greater accuracy (95% confidence interval 1.6% to 3.8%) than the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease equation for estimating glomerular filtration rate. Estimated annual transition rates to the next chronic kidney disease stage are ≈ 2% for people with normal urine albumin, 3–5% for people with microalbuminuria (3–30 mg/mmol) and 3–12% for people with macroalbuminuria (> 30 mg/mmol). Variability in estimated glomerular filtration rate-creatinine leads to misclassification of chronic kidney disease stage in 12–15% of tests in primary care. Glycaemic-control and lipid-modifying drugs are associated with a 6% (95% confidence interval 2% to 10%) and 4% (95% confidence interval 0% to 8%) improvement in renal function, respectively. Neither estimated glomerular filtration rate-creatinine nor estimated glomerular filtration rate-Cystatin C have utility in predicting rate of kidney function change. Patients viewed phrases such as ‘kidney damage’ or ‘kidney failure’ as frightening, and the term ‘chronic’ was misinterpreted as serious. Diagnosis of asymptomatic conditions (chronic kidney disease) was difficult to understand, and primary care professionals often did not use ‘chronic kidney disease’ when managing patients at early stages. General practitioners relied on Clinical Commissioning Group or Quality and Outcomes Framework alerts rather than National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance for information. Cost-effectiveness modelling did not demonstrate a tangible benefit of monitoring kidney function to guide preventative treatments, except for individuals with an estimated glomerular filtration rate of 60–90 ml/minute/1.73 m2, aged < 70 years and without cardiovascular disease, where monitoring every 3–4 years to guide cardiovascular prevention may be cost-effective. Chronic heart failure: natriuretic peptide-guided treatment could reduce all-cause mortality by 13% and heart failure admission by 20%. Implementing natriuretic peptide-guided treatment is likely to require predefined protocols, stringent natriuretic peptide targets, relative targets and being located in a specialist heart failure setting. Remote monitoring can reduce all-cause mortality and heart failure hospitalisation, and could improve quality of life. Diagnostic accuracy of point-of-care N-terminal prohormone of B-type natriuretic peptide (sensitivity, 0.99; specificity, 0.60) was better than point-of-care B-type natriuretic peptide (sensitivity, 0.95; specificity, 0.57). Within-person variation estimates for B-type natriuretic peptide and weight were as follows: coefficient of variation, 46% and coefficient of variation, 1.2%, respectively. Point-of-care N-terminal prohormone of B-type natriuretic peptide within-person variability over 12 months was 881 pg/ml (95% confidence interval 380 to 1382 pg/ml), whereas between-person variability was 1972 pg/ml (95% confidence interval 1525 to 2791 pg/ml). For individuals, monitoring provided reassurance; future changes, such as increased testing, would be acceptable. Point-of-care testing in general practice surgeries was perceived positively, reducing waiting time and anxiety. Community heart failure nurses had greater knowledge of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance than general practitioners and practice nurses. Health-care professionals believed that the cost of natriuretic peptide tests in routine monitoring would outweigh potential benefits. The review of cost-effectiveness studies suggests that natriuretic peptide-guided treatment is cost-effective in specialist settings, but with no evidence for its value in primary care settings. Limitations No randomised controlled trial evidence was generated. The pathways to the benefit of monitoring chronic kidney disease were unclear. Conclusions It is difficult to ascribe quantifiable benefits to monitoring chronic kidney disease, because monitoring is unlikely to change treatment, especially in chronic kidney disease stages G3 and G4. New approaches to monitoring chronic heart failure, such as point-of-care natriuretic peptide tests in general practice, show promise if high within-test variability can be overcome. Future work The following future work is recommended: improve general practitioner–patient communication of early-stage renal function decline, and identify strategies to reduce the variability of natriuretic peptide. Study registration This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42015017501, CRD42019134922 and CRD42016046902. Funding This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Programme Grants for Applied Research programme and will be published in full in Programme Grants for Applied Research; Vol. 9, No. 10. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

Original publication




Journal article


Programme Grants for Applied Research


National Institute for Health Research

Publication Date





1 - 218