Asthma patients ‘denied’ crucial £1,000 lung test which shows whether medication is protecting them from attacks, doctors warn
- Asthma patients denied FENO testo which can spot when lungs are overworked
- Lack of funding concerning as waiting times to see specialists at record high
Asthma patients are missing out on a vital test that can show whether their medication is protecting them from attacks, leading doctors have warned.
The device, called a FENO test, can spot when the lungs are overworked – a common symptom of the disease which leaves patients breathless.
Without it, doctors are often in the dark as to whether patients are responding to treatment.
Asthmatics typically rely on inhalers to control the condition, but some may need a stronger dose or a different type of medicine. The FENO test is approved for use on the NHS and is used by lung specialists in hospitals. However, the health service has not agreed to provide GPs with the test because there are concerns about its cost.
The device needed to carry it out costs £1,000, but is reusable.
Asthma patients are missing out on a vital test that can show whether their medication is protecting them from attacks, leading doctors have warned (stock photo)
Experts say the lack of funding is concerning because hospital waiting times to see asthma specialists are at all-time highs.
While they wait, patients can experience painful and sometimes life-threatening asthma attacks.
‘NHS guidance says the FENO test is an effective tool for managing asthma, so it should be available for GPs,’ says Dr Robert Russell of the West Hampshire Integrated Respiratory Service.
‘If GPs spot someone not responding to their treatment sooner, then we can save people from needless attacks.’
About eight million people have asthma in the UK, which develops when the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs become inflamed and narrow – sometimes triggered by allergies or exercise.
For most, asthma symptoms are mild and controlled with inhalers (pictured), but for some the condition can be life-threatening
For most, symptoms are mild and controlled with inhalers, but for some the condition can be life-threatening.
The FENO test, which involves blowing into a plastic tube, measures levels of nitric oxide – a gas which forms in the lungs when they are under stress.
‘If there is more nitric oxide than last time, the inhaler is doing the job, but it might be that your asthma has got worse and we need to change the medication,’ says Dr Russell.
About 1,500 Britons die from an asthma attack each year. While GPs have access to asthma diagnostic tools, such as a peak flow test, which measures how fast a patient can breathe out, these do not show whether the condition is improving.