Our diagnosis working group
The Taskforce’s diagnosis working group was set up to drive forward the recommendations around improving the early and accurate diagnosis of lung disease.
The group has a wide membership of patient representatives, professional bodies, patient organisations and industry partners, and the group’s chairs can be found on our about page.
As a group we’re currently working on two main areas of work, which were identified as priorities in the Taskforce’s five-year plan. These are:
- Creating a clear pathway for diagnosing the symptoms of lung disease
- Supporting the case for a national lung screening programme
Creating a clear pathway for diagnosis the symptoms of lung disease
We’ve developed our pathway for how symptoms of lung disease should be identified and diagnosed in primary care.
Currently, people wait too long for an accurate diagnosis of their lung disease. We believe an important step to addressing this is to have a unified pathway that all health care professionals in primary care can use. Our pathway will make sure the right tests are done at the right time, either at the GP surgery or by referring people as quickly as possible into a local diagnostic hub.
We’re championing the use of local diagnostic hubs because they can help diagnose lung diseases that are more complicated much more quickly. Diagnostic hubs will bring together the expertise of respiratory professionals alongside those working in areas with shared symptoms such as cardiovascular, mental health and obesity. This means that whatever condition they ultimately have, people can get started on the right treatment without wasting time.
A briefing on our vision for the pathway has been shared with NHS England and can be read here.
CT-first pathways for diagnosing lung disease
The diagnosis working group brought together a group of experts to look into CT-first pathways for diagnosing lung disease in 2020. In June 2021 we published our policy position paper written by the group.
All people who are seen at their GP practice with suspected lung disease must have access to the best tests that can help to diagnose their symptoms, and those tests should be undertaken as quickly and as efficiently as possible. For people with lung diseases such as lung cancer, interstitial lung disease and bronchiectasis, the test they need with urgency is a CT scan.
But for many people, they have to get through a number of appointments and undergo lots of other tests – such as a chest X-ray - before they eventually are sent for a CT scan. As a Taskforce, we believe this isn’t good enough for patients because it slows down the process of getting a diagnosis, creates needless extra work for the health service, and means patients are sent back and forth for tests.
There’s also worrying evidence that chest X-rays are less effective at identifying diseases on people’s lungs such as lung cancer, which can leave people without a complete diagnosis. That’s hugely concerning as we know how important it is to diagnose lung cancer early.
Through our paper we’ve made a series of recommendations, ultimately calling for GPs to be able to refer patients straight to a CT scan within the clear diagnosis pathway.
Supporting the case for a national lung cancer screening programme
We would like to see a national programme in place for people at high risk of developing lung cancer.
As a group we’re interested in two key projects which are helping to make the case for a national programme: the NELSON lung cancer screening trial, and the NHS England targeted lung health check programme.
In August 2020 we produced a briefing outlining the Taskforce position on the targeted lung health checks programme. We hope these pilots will be successful in diagnosing not only lung cancer but other lung disease such as COPD and interstitial lung diseases early. But we think there are some aspects that need to be improved if the checks are going to be successful, including ensuring people who are found to have COPD have a clear package of support. Our briefing has since been shared with the pilot sites and the relevant team at NHS England, and can be read here.