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GP mythbuster 83: Spirometry in general practice
As we move into the next phase of COVID-19 recovery, the restoration of spirometry is a key step in managing respiratory disease by ensuring the correct diagnosis and therapeutic/referral interventions. We remain aware that spirometry is classed as an aerosol generating process (AGP) and the risk of airborne particle transmission appears to be most likely associated with coughing.
Infection control measures continue to be important. Until all restrictions are lifted or further guidance is published, providers should ensure effective risk mitigation is in place to protect both staff and patients. The Association of Respiratory Technology & Physiology (ARTP) COVID Group have produced a risk minimisation in restarting spirometry document.
The Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS) have published guidance for clinicians and commissioners which highlight ‘the immediate post-recovery phase, including infection control measures which continue to be important’.
Here we share information about quality standards and best practice in spirometry when normal practice resumes. We also explain what we would expect to see on an inspection.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance states that spirometry is recommended as the objective test to identify abnormalities in lung volumes and airflow. It is performed in general practice to aid diagnosis. It is a way of monitoring chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory conditions.
Spirometry is used to support diagnosis and treatment. It must be performed to recognised standards by competent professionals. Test results can be interpreted by nurses or GPs who have had appropriate training and can show competency. Some practices liaise with the local respiratory specialist team to assess results.
Those performing or interpreting diagnostic spirometry in general practice must be able demonstrate their competency. Being on the Association of Respiratory Technology & Physiology (ARTP) national register is one way to evidence quality and consistency
Quality assured diagnostic spirometry
The guide to performing quality assured diagnostic spirometry from the ARTP shows how high quality diagnostic spirometry can be delivered in primary care and elsewhere.
This step-by-step guide shows:
- how to perform diagnostic spirometry
- how to interpret and report results
- calibration, cleaning and operation of the equipment
- methods for quality assurance.
- operator competency
- preparation of the patient.
When we inspect
We will look at how providers:
- ensure spirometry equipment is cleaned and maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidance
- demonstrate all staff who perform spirometry tests or interpret results are competent to do so
- assess the risk of, and prevent, detect and control the spread of infections, including those that are health care associated.
We use these Regulations:
- Regulation 12 (Safe care and treatment)
- Regulation 13 (Safeguarding service users from abuse and improper treatment)
- Regulation 15 (Premises and equipment)
It is part of our key lines of enquiry (KLOEs). In particular:
- Last updated:
- 21 July 2021