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Mass lung function testing urged to improve COPD detection

By Nigel Praities

GPs could be asked to conduct spirometry in healthy patients in their mid-twenties under proposals being looked at by ministers to improve the detection of COPD.

The proposals are contained in the draft clinical strategy for COPD – formerly a national service framework – which is being scrutinised by the Department of Health and is expected to be put out for consultation later this year.

The strategy also contains plans to reduce misdiagnosis of COPD, using other techniques in addition to spirometry.

Last year, the British Lung Foundation called for GPs to check the diagnosis of all patients over 35 years with COPD or asthma, after their survey showed 80% of GPs found differentiating between asthma and COPD ‘quite' or ‘very' challenging.

Dr Rupert Jones, a GP in Plymouth and a member of the COPD programme board, said the proposals were part of a DH drive to give people the information to make choices about their future healthcare: ‘It is too late when you present with advanced lung disease at the age of 60, you want to know at the age of 25.'

Dr Jones said the strategy would also look at improving the accuracy of COPD diagnoses, which could involve use of CT scans and cardiac testing.

Dr Kevin Gruffydd-Jones, a GP in Wiltshire and a member of the General Practice Ariways Group, welcomed the ideas on diagnosis, but warned there was limited evidence to support lung function testing in asymptomatic individuals: ‘If you look at all the things we are bombarded with, I would question if that is a good use of time.'

Lung function tests on younger, healthier patients would set a 'baseline' to help later diagnoses

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