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NICE consults on draft guidance to improve asthma diagnosis

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Asthma needs a clear diagnostic test Asthma needs a clear diagnostic test

NICE is calling for healthcare professionals to contribute to draft guidance to improve asthma diagnosis and symptom control.

The draft guideline, states that to achieve an accurate diagnosis clinical tests should be used, as well as checking patients for signs and symptoms.

Professor Mark Baker, director of clinical practice at NICE, said: 'Accurate diagnosis of asthma has been a significant problem, which means that people may be wrongly diagnosed or cases might be missed in others. Our aim with this guideline is to give clarity and set out the most clinical and cost effective ways to diagnose and monitor asthma based on the best available evidence.'

'This new draft guideline provides advice for primary, secondary and community care healthcare professionals on the most suitable tests for accurately diagnosing asthma and how to help people monitor and control their symptoms. We now want to hear from all those who provide care for people with asthma in the NHS to ensure all relevant views are considered for the final guideline,' he added.

There is currently no standard test to diagnose asthma and currently most healthcare professionals just check patients for symptoms. However, almost a third of people being treated for asthma don't show signs of the condition, so an appropriate diagnosis requires supportive tests.

The first test should be carried out with a spirometer with further breath tests to be carried out depending on the results and the patients' age.

For adults and children and young people over five, further tests include checking nitric oxide levels and whether medicines that widen the airways of the lung can be beneficial. The treatment of under-fives should be based on clinical judgement and observation until the child is old enough to take clinical tests.

Monitoring how well patients are controlling their symptoms is another one of the key priorities included in the draft guidelines. It states that during each review healthcare professionals should check that patients are using their inhaler correctly and consider using a validated questionnaire to see how well they are doing.

Healthcare professionals should also ask employed people how their symptoms are affected by work to check if they have occupational asthma as one in 10 adults develop the condition due to exposure to certain substances in the workplace.

The consultation will run until 11 March 2015 with an expected release date of the final guidance to be in June 2015.

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