Background: Occupational asthma (OA) remains common; 1 in 10 cases of adult-onset asthma is due to work. Health outcomes are better with early diagnosis, but there is considerable delay, largely due to lack of enquiry about work effect in primary care. National guidelines (2008) recommend asking two screening questions, which together have a high sensitivity in identifying OA.
Aims: To audit how working-age asthmatics are currently screened for OA in a local primary care population.
Methods: An audit of the electronic patient records of working-age asthmatics, from four Birmingham primary care practices was undertaken. Practice-level data (list size, gender, prevalence of asthma and OA and socio-economic status) and patient-level data (gender, age, onset, occupation and work-effect enquiry and lung function) were collected.
Results: The total practice population was 27,295 of which 17,564 (64%) were of working age. The audit sample was 396 of whom 49% were male. The prevalence of asthma in working-age adults was 12% (8-15%) and the prevalence of OA in working-age asthmatics was 0.3% (0-0.8%). Occupation was recorded in only 55/396 (14%) cases with very few (2) documented within the asthma-review template. Occupation was only recorded in 13/55 adult-onset asthmatics in high-risk occupations. Of 396, 9 (2%) had any work-effect enquiry and 4 patients had work-effect enquiry at diagnosis in those with traceable notes (n = 117).
Conclusions: The prevalence of OA was low, suggesting under-diagnosis plus under-reporting in primary care. Occupation and work-effect enquiry is lacking despite guidelines for identifying OA. Existing electronic templates for recording asthma review could be modified to include these elements.