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UK doctors missing up to 85% of opportunities for early COPD diagnosis


UK doctors are overwhelmingly failing to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at their first opportunity, missing the chance for early drug intervention to slow disease progression, according to a study published on Thursday.

Opportunities to diagnose COPD at an earlier stage are missed in up to 85% of patients in both primary and secondary care in the UK, according to a retrospective study including close to 39,000 patients published online in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Results showed that in the five years before diagnosis, 85% of patients had visited their GP or a secondary care clinic at least once with lower respiratory symptoms. "Opportunities for diagnosis were missed" in 58% of patients in the 6-10 years before diagnosis and 42% in the 11-15 years before diagnosis.
Quoted in a statement highlighting the research, Dr Rupert Jones from Plymouth University Peninsula School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK said:
"The first signs of lung disease should prompt appropriate investigations such as pulmonary function tests (spirometry). However, both general practitioners and patients are failing to recognise the significance of symptoms."
The study's author continued to raise the potential benefits of early diagnosis and treatment, saying government figures suggest rectifying these delays could save the NHS more than a billion pounds over 10 years.

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