Call for GPs to re-test for asthma and COPD

GPs could face a huge increase in workload after the British Lung Foundation called for all patients over the age of 35 diagnosed with asthma or COPD to be re-tested.

This comes after the results of a survey by the charity revealed that 80 per cent of UK GPs find distinguishing between a diagnosis of asthma and COPD quite or very challenging.

The online survey of 776 GPs found that nearly a third - 32 per cent - of GPs who responded did not know how many patients in their practice had both COPD and asthma.

Additionally, one in 10 practices had no staff who could carry out or interpret spirometry tests.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 'We are calling for everyone over 35 with an asthma or COPD diagnosis to be re-tested and for this to be made part of the GP contract next year.'

But Dr Kevin Gruffydd-Jones, a GP in Wiltshire and a member of the General Practice Airways Group (GPIAG), warned that it would not be practical to do mass re-testing of all patients with asthma and COPD.

'That would be around 8 per cent of patients in a practice. That is a huge number of patients to re-test,' he said.

'Instead, GPs should check that they have made the right diagnosis when patients present for their individual reviews.'

Patients who have poorly controlled asthma should be checked to ensure that they have asthma and not COPD, said Dr Gruffydd-Jones.

'It is very important to distinguish between the two conditions as the treatment regimens have fundamentally different aims.

'But it is difficult to make the distinction as the conditions have a wide range of overlapping symptoms. Some patients can also have both conditions.'

There is an urgent need for better training as well as access to spirometry, he said.

Somerset GP Dr Steve Holmes, former chairman of GPIAG, added that GPs should follow the available guidance from NICE and the British Thoracic Society to help them diagnose the conditions.

Comment below and tell us what you think

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Mobile phone

GPs urge caution over plan for NHS health checks to go digital

GP leaders have warned that changes to the NHS health checks programme must be evidence-based...

Debbie Boughtflower

How career coaching can transform the lives of veterans

GPs across England and Wales can refer patients who used to work in the armed forces...

RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne

RCGP raises 'major concerns' over practice-level appointments data

The RCGP has written to health and social care secretary Steve Barclay warning that...

Labour shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting

GPs condemn 'ignorant' Labour rhetoric over access to appointments

Doctors' leaders have accused the Labour party of 'demonising' GPs after it claimed...


Government NHS pension reform plans 'too little too late', warns BMA

Government plans to boost retention of doctors through reforms to the NHS pension...

Child in bed with a fever

GPs told to have 'low threshold' for prescribing antibiotics in possible strep A cases

GPs have been urged to have a 'low threshold' for prescribing antibiotics and hospital...