Fears Over Asthma Misdiagnosis Lead To British Lung Foundation Calls For Mass Retesting
A survey of 776 GPs from all over the UK carried out for the charity by Doctors.net.uk shows that most have difficulty differentiating between Asthma or COPD, causing misdiagnosis and distress amongst patients.
The survey showed that:
- Four fifths of GPs (80%) find differentiating between the Asthma and COPD quite or very challenging
- 1 in 10 (10%) don't have appropriately trained staff to carry out or interpret spirometry testing
- Less than a quarter (24%) are trained to carry out spirometry testing themselves
- More than a quarter (26%) do not have the training to interpret spirometry testing themselves
- Just under a fifth (19%) say that the quality of COPD diagnosis has not changed under the current GP contract
- More than a quarter (27%) say the quality of COPD care has not changed under the current GP contract
- Nearly a half (48%) say the GP contract should reward GPs for clarifying whether a patient has Asthma or COPD
A separate patient survey carried out by the charity showed that nearly two fifths (39%) had been told they had both Asthma and COPD, a far higher figure than should be the case. The BLF says it is vital that a diagnosis of COPD or Asthma is clarified and that the GP contract should reward this next year.
"It can be difficult to differentiate between an Asthma and COPD diagnosis but the long term aims of Asthma and COPD treatment are different and it is vital that people with either disease have an accurate diagnosis," says BLF spokesperson, Dr Keith Prowse.
"In Asthma the aim is to restore full lung function and if it is not treated properly the inflammation can cause scarring in the lungs and permanent damage. In COPD the management of the disease is quite complex and treatments such as pulmonary rehabilitation are crucial".
"Patients get understandably distressed and angry when they realise they have been misdiagnosed and not given the most appropriate treatment," says Dame Helena Shovelton. "We're calling for everyone over 35 with an Asthma or COPD diagnosis to be retested and for this to be made part of the GP contract next year."
1. This survey of 776 GPs was carried out by Doctors.net.uk survey in November 2008.
2. COPD is the umbrella term for a number of lung conditions including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It kills more people every year than breast, bowel or prostate cancer
3. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive, irreversible lung disease. It is both preventable and treatable. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can slow the progression of the illness
4. The UK faces a chronic lung disease time bomb. COPD is already the fifth biggest killer in the UK and it is the only major cause of death whose incidence is on the increase
5. COPD is caused by smoking or by exposure to environmental pollution and to hazards at work such as dust, fumes and gases. In a very small number of people it is caused by a genetic deficiency
6. The British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity working for everyone affected by lung disease including COPD. We provide support via a telephone helpline; booklets on lung diseases and related issues; a comprehensive website; BLF community nurses; and a Breathe Easy support network for anyone affected by lung disease.
British Lung Foundation
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