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Accelerating diagnosis

Millions are living undiagnosed  

People who have difficulty breathing often wait years for a formal diagnosis, or never receive one at all. This is partly because society doesn’t always take breathlessness seriously and many people learn to live with debilitating symptoms before they are told to get help. 

Diagnosis is too slow and tools aren’t fit for purpose 

But even after seeking help from health care professionals, diagnosis is still too slow. Too much time passes between appointments and people are left waiting months for key tests. What is more, few advances have been made in the way lung disease is detected and tests are can be inaccurate, unreliable, or costly.  

We need change 

Policy makers should:  

  • Collect data on the time to diagnosis and time to start treatment for all major lung diseases, regularly reporting on this and tracking success in line with other major conditions.  
  • Improve public awareness of the symptoms of lung conditions, together with health care professionals so we make sure all breathlessness is taken seriously.  
  • Implement an improved clinical pathway, supported by an increased NHS workforce, so that everyone with respiratory symptoms gets access to the best available diagnostic tests, carried out as accurately and efficiently as possible.  
  • Invest in the development and uptake of new, cutting-edge technologies to transform the diagnosis of lung conditions, making it faster, more accessible, and more accurate. 

People I see in my COPD clinic have typically been breathless for many years before they got a diagnosis. They have often missed out on treatments that would have improved their symptoms and reduced the burden of chest infections.”  

Nick Hopkinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine, National Heart & Lung Institute