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Neville and Higgins in their review of the provision of asthma care in a recent issue ofThorax 1 refer to a meeting at the Royal College of Physicians in London at which agreement on the form of three key questions about patients' asthma symptoms was reached. The form of the questions was wrongly quoted in their paper and the correct form is:
“In the last week/month:
(1) Have you had difficulty sleeping because of your asthma symptoms (including cough)?
(2) Have you had your usual asthma symptoms during the day (cough, wheeze, chest tightness or breathlessness)?
(3) Has your asthma interfered with your usual activities (e.g. housework, work/school)?”
There is a trade off to be made between the better recall of events over the past week and the greater generalisability of events over the past month. The feeling of the meeting was that there was insufficient evidence upon which to base a decision about the best timescale and further evaluation of this issue is needed. It was agreed that these questions should be answerable by simple yes/no responses, with the possibility of scaled responses where these were positive. The full proceedings have now been published by the Royal College of Physicians.2
We hope that these questions will become a common currency for recording the outcome for patients with asthma in both primary and secondary care and would encourage their use in order that comparable data may be available in the future. Ways of incorporating the questions into general practice software are currently being explored.
authors' reply Drs Pearson and Bucknall are right to draw attention to the final version of the three key questions. In preparation of our article we had a copy of a draft report to work with, but not the final version. We thank Drs Pearson and Bucknall for correcting this and endorse their view that we need to encourage use of these questions.
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