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'Finding the missing millions' with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease became part of the Department of Health strategy for England in 2010. Targeted case-finding within primary care is one potential pro-active strategy, but currently little is known about the views of healthcare professionals on this approach. In this study, 36 healthcare professionals (12 GPs, 14 nurses, and 10 practice managers) from 34 UK practices participated in semi-structured telephone interviews about targeted case-finding. Interviews followed an interview guide, were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, coded and analysed using 'Framework Approach'. Most of those interviewed practiced opportunistic case-finding. The main perceived barriers to wider case-finding programmes were the resource implications associated with running such programmes and identifying more chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. Financial incentives, support from specialist clinicians, and comprehensive guidance were viewed as facilitators. While targeted case-finding is conceptually accepted by primary care staff, scepticism surrounding (1) the value of identifying those with mild disease and (2) the availability of effective targeted case-finding methods, may lead some to favour an opportunistic approach. Key concerns were a lack of unequivocal evidence for the relative benefits vs. disadvantages of diagnosing patients earlier, and resource constraints in an already over-burdened system. Barriers to practical implementation of case-finding studies may be addressed with financial, human and educational resources, such as additional staff to undertake searches and perform spirometry tests, and practical and educational support from specialist teams.Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseSUPPORT NEEDED TO IDENTIFY THOSE UNDIAGNOSED: Additional staff and resources would facilitate targeted searches for patients showing symptoms of early-stage chronic lung disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) costs the UK economy billions of pounds each year, yet disparate symptoms mean patients aren't always diagnosed in the early, treatable stages of the disease. Recent guidelines suggest introducing 'targeted case-finding', where symptomatic patients with known risk factors are identified and approached for testing by doctors. Rachael Summers and colleagues at the University of Southampton analyzed the opinions of healthcare professionals on implementing targeted case-finding in primary care. While most of the 36 professionals interviewed agreed that diagnosing COPD earlier had clear benefits, concerns were raised regarding negative patient responses and increased stress for patients, alongside the added strain on already stretched resources. Employing independent staff and enhancing resources may facilitate such a program.

Original publication





NPJ primary care respiratory medicine

Publication Date





Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK.


Humans, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Spirometry, Attitude of Health Personnel, Qualitative Research, Adult, Middle Aged, Administrative Personnel, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Practice Management, Primary Health Care, England, Female, Male, General Practitioners, United Kingdom