Family docs miss most work-related wheezes

Family doctors are missing the link between work and asthma in threequarters of patients visiting them suffering from the serious breathing disorder caused by their job, a new study has found. The research published this week in the journal Occupational Medicine found occupation was only recorded in 14 per cent of the cases and in nearly all cases (98 per cent) GPs failed to record if they had asked simple screening questions about whether a patient's asthma symptoms improved at weekends and on holiday - an indicator the problem is work-related. Researchers at the University of Birmingham's Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine uncovered the problem of poor recognition by GPs in an audit of the electronic patient records of working age asthmatics. Dr Gareth Walters, the lead author, said: 'Most workers with new asthma symptoms present to their GPs first, so it is important for health care professionals working in primary care to recognise when these symptoms might be caused by or related to work. Currently occupational asthma is very costly to the NHS and to society - and an early diagnosis can prevent on-going debilitating symptoms, time off work and financial loss for the worker.'

Source : GI Walters, EE McGrath and JG Ayres. Audit of the recording of occupational asthma in primary care, Occupational Medicine, volume 62, issue 7, p. 570-573, 2012.

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