How is asthma diagnosed in primary care and what are the challenges?

Arm writing in notebook with pen
16 Jul 2019

In the blog below, medical student Adeola Akindele describes her experience working with the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research in Edinburgh - including presenting at the International Primary Care Respiratory Group 6th Scientific Meeting and culminating in a publication in Primary Care Respiratory Medicine.

I had the opportunity to work with the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research team in Edinburgh as part of my Student Selected Component in medical school.

I wanted a project that was very closely related to processes in patient care when I came across a blog by Professor Aziz Sheik on safety in primary care. Professor Sheikh set up a meeting almost immediately with Dr Luke Daines and proposed a project on practices in diagnosing asthma at primary care level.

The project and our key findings

From having only read qualitative work, I was very well supported with the resources and time I needed to do carry out semi structured interviews with general practitioners and nurses working in primary care.

Key findings from the study were that primary care practitioners diagnose asthma based on the clinical features of the patient presenting and the clinical likelihood of the patient having asthma. However, this diagnostic process is often hampered by the variable nature of asthma, difficulties with testing young patients, diagnostic overlap with viral induced wheeze and COPD as well as time pressures in general practice. In the future, education of primary care practitioners and development of diagnostic tools will help to improve the diagnosis of asthma.

Presenting the findings

I had the opportunity of discussing these findings at two different conferences, one being the Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS) in September 2018 and the other being the International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) in May 2019. This was held in Bucharest Romania and I was delighted to have travel and accommodation costs covered by Dr Daines’ grant.


With the help of the AUKCAR team, the study was written up and submitted for publication. The study ‘Qualitative study of practices and challenges when making a diagnosis of asthma in primary care’ has been accepted by the Primary Care Respiratory Medicine journal.

I am grateful to my supervisor, Dr Daines and other key members of the AUKCAR team in Edinburgh including Professor Pinnock and Professor Sheikh for an enjoyable learning experience.

Read the article

The published article is available from npj Primary Care Respiratory Medicine

Cite as

Akindele A., Daines L., Cavers D., Pinnock H., and Sheikh A., Qualitative study of practices and challenges when making a diagnosis of asthma in primary care, npj Primary Care Respiratory Medicine. 29:27 (2019).

© 2015 AUKCAR