Confidence and understanding among general practitioners and practice nurses in the UK about diagnosis and management of COPD.

Respir Med. 2007 Nov;101(11):2378-85
Halpin DM, O'reilly JF, Connellan S, Rudolf M; on behalf of the BTS COPD Consortium.
Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Exeter, EX2 5DW, UK.

In order to assess the confidence of healthcare professionals in diagnosing and managing COPD telephone interviews were conducted with 60 practice nurses and 46 general practitioners (GPs) in 2001 and 61 nurses and 39 GPs in 2005. The nurses all ran respiratory clinics.

80% of GPs were confident about diagnosing COPD and this had increased from 52% in 2001. Fifty five percent of nurses were confident and there was no change from 2001. In 2005, 79% of GPs and 70% of nurses were confident about differentiating asthma and COPD. Smoking history, breathlessness, age of onset, lack of response to asthma therapy and cough were reported as features differentiating COPD from asthma. Most respondents stated that spirometry is essential to diagnose COPD and in 2005 nearly all practices had access to a spirometry service. GPs were more confident about interpreting spirometry results in 2005 than nurses and their confidence had increased significantly from 2001. In 2005, nearly all respondents had heard of pulmonary rehabilitation, and significantly more had a programme in their area in 2005 than 2001 (69% vs. 49% p=0.05). Fifty four percent of GPs were confident about which patients to refer for long term oxygen therapy in 2005 but nurses were less confident.

There had not been any significant change between 2001 and 2005. In 2005 only 35% of respondents had access to a pulse oximeter. When presented with case scenarios, GPs self-reported confidence was not reflected in their diagnoses or investigation and management strategies and they seem to favour cardiac over respiratory diagnoses.




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