Groundbreaking collaboration to speed up diagnosis of breathlessness

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Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Integrated Care Board is leading on a groundbreaking collaboration to speed up diagnosis of breathlessness.

Breathlessness affects around 10% of the UK population. It is often notoriously complex to diagnose, resulting in long delays to treatment for patients, with over 66% of cases caused by underlying cardiorespiratory diseases.

The project will transform an existing symptom-based care pathway, reducing delays to diagnosis. Remote specialist input will be brought into the decision making process at an earlier stage, using digital tools supplied by Lenus Health.

Jim McNair, Director, Lenus Health said: “Breathlessness diagnosis is complex and we are delighted to be working in partnership across Leicestershire healthcare providers to optimise activities and join up data to speed up diagnosis and time to treatment.

“This not only helps the patients themselves but reduces pressure at our hospital front doors because of undiagnosed and untreated disease.”

The project includes primary care, secondary care and academia to support its implementation, which will also utilise the existing Leicester Community Diagnostic Centre (CDC) and the new Hinckley CDC which is due to be operational early in 2025. 

Dr Louise Ryan, GP and clinical lead for respiratory illness at Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) ICB, said: “Breathing difficulties affect many patients in our local area and this initiative will help us, in many cases, to diagnose the underlying cause in GP practices, without having to refer patients to secondary care. This will speed up diagnosis for patients and means that they can be treated sooner, without having to visit a hospital.”

Dr Rachael Evans, respiratory Consultant Physician and clinical lead for the existing breathlessness LLR pathway at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “Our research at University of Leicester shows delays to diagnosis are associated with worse patient outcomes and hospital admissions, and that earlier parallel testing can help. This project has the potential to improve the local situation by effective implementation of the NHS-England diagnostic breathlessness pathway through the CDC and Lenus software enabling remote earlier specialist input where needed.”

To complement the CDC project, an InnovateUK funded AKT2i project between the University of Leicester and Lenus Health will support, amongst other activities, evidence generation of the intervention’s benefits.  

Dr Gillian Doe, research programme manager and respiratory physiotherapist at the University of Leicester, concluded: “Our team is committed to research in improving the pathway to diagnosis and symptom management for individuals living with breathlessness. The Innovate UK and CDC funding will support the digital optimisation of the Breathlessness pathway in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We are excited to work in partnership with Lenus and NHS partners to deliver this project.”

The project builds on the Lenus Diagnose product successfully implemented in Heart Failure, wider CVD, and COPD pathways where it has significantly reduced time to diagnosis and treatment and delivered service efficiencies to the healthcare system.

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