Delayed Diagnosis and Unequal Care

The reality for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the UK in 2022.

Our second annual COPD report provides key insights into the experience of people with COPD over the last year. It reveals a worrying picture of delayed diagnosis, substandard care, and a disproportionate impact of inequalities on people with COPD.  

Our report shows:  

  • Almost a quarter of people surveyed are waiting five years or more for a diagnosis, whilst one in eight waited more than a decade.
  • Less than a fifth of people with COPD surveyed received the full package of basic care recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) including the ‘five fundamentals’ of COPD care: smoking cessation, vaccination, pulmonary rehabilitation, personalised self-management planning, and optimising treatment for co-morbidities.
  • Provision of the five fundamentals has dropped in every nation: down 7% UK-wide from 2021.  
  • Someone from the poorest 10% of households is more than two and a half times more likely to have COPD than someone from the most affluent 10% of households.  

What we are calling for:  

Diagnosis of COPD needs to be faster and more accurate. Following the pandemic, there are still barriers to the restart of crucial diagnostic services, such as universal access to quality assured spirometry tests. This will impact many people who are waiting for an accurate diagnosis.  

  • We want to see an urgent increase in availability of quality assured spirometry across the system, to at least pre-pandemic levels, so that this is available universally. Central support for solutions to achieving this are required across the UK.
  • To address this further, we are calling for the  implementation of a pre-diagnosis breathlessness pathway (modelled on the Diagnostic Pathway Support Tool developed in England) to improve speed and accuracy of diagnosis within primary care UK-wide.
  • We want to see a public awareness campaign in every UK nation to encourage people with key symptoms, such as breathlessness, to seek advice so that they can benefit from being diagnosed and treated. 

Social inequalities contribute to the development of COPD and impact the quality of care that poorer people with COPD receive.  

  • We want to see the prioritisation of lung health in all inequalities and national health strategies.  
  • COPD care and treatment should be targeted at people who are most at risk: governments and health services across the UK should ensure timely case finding amongst high-risk groups (such as smokers, people experiencing homelessness, those who are poorer or in a high-risk occupation) to identify COPD and other lung conditions, so that these can be treated sooner.

At Asthma + Lung UK we will demand better care for all people with COPD, to ensure that everyone with COPD receives the timely diagnosis and quality care that they deserve.

Download the report to learn more.  

Download the Executive Summary and Recommendations.  

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