APF welcomes NHS plans to fast-track testing for respiratory conditions like pulmonary fibrosis

A man doing a spirometry test
August 2023

Today (3 August 2023) NHS England has announced that hundreds of thousands of patients, including those with suspected pulmonary fibrosis, could benefit from a quicker diagnosis through new plans for fast-tracked tests and checks.

GP practices in England will now be able to directly order diagnostic checks to identify a wide range of conditions, including tests which help to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis, as well as COPD, asthma, cardiovascular disease and heart failure. 

These changes take away the need for consultation with a specialist before being sent for these tests and could remove a step in the pathway to diagnosis, helping those with suspected pulmonary fibrosis be diagnosed more quickly. 

The tests will be performed at one of over 100 Community Diagnostic Centres (CDCs). These are facilities which can perform many diagnostic tests in a ‘one stop shop’. One such test is spirometry, which measures how much air can be forced out of your lungs in one breath. It is the most common and simplest lung function test, but we regularly hear from our supporters that it can take a long time to get an appointment for spirometry. 

We will continue to work on improving education for GPs and primary care professionals to make sure that the signs and symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis are recognised and those with a suspected diagnosis are sent to the right place as quickly as possible. 

“We welcome today’s announcement to give patients faster access to important tests like spirometry. However, the need for earlier diagnosis and a consistent care pathway for people affected by PF remains urgent. Far too often we hear that being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis is a long and complex journey. These changes are a first step to stop those affected by PF from falling through the cracks.”  Bradley Price, Head of Policy and Public Affairs