A new initiative led by GPs in the Highlands aims to gather more accurate Lyme disease case numbers and make the diagnosis of it easier.
The Lyme Disease General Practice Sentinel Scheme is a collaboration between NHS Highland, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Pfizer Inc.
It has been given the go ahead to roll out across Scotland and England after being trialed across 15 GP practices in the Highlands.
Those taking part were provided with a Lyme specific training package as well as a digital guidance and data capture tool which helps guide them through a consultation when Lyme disease has been suspected or confirmed.
Helping with diagnosis
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose as symptomatic rashes vary widely and patients can display a range seemingly unrelated symptoms.
It can occur when someone is bitten by a tick carrying Lyme causing bacteria, but many do not remember being bitten.
Dr James Douglas, lead clinician in the scheme, said it was well received by those who had taken part in the trial.
“The pilot phase of the project indicated that the use of the tool was broadly accepted by GPs who generally found it easy to use and helpful to aid decision making in what can be a tricky diagnostic process,” he said.
“It is important we try to support diagnosis in any way we can since Lyme can be easily cured with antibiotics if it is caught early.”
More accurate case numbers
Though the disease is relatively common in some areas of the UK, information on exactly how many patients are getting early stage Lyme disease each year is unclear.
NHS Highland project manager Sam Holden said the scheme hopes to clarify the case numbers: “Our initial results show that we can collect good quality data on Lyme disease cases in GPs.
“This means we can capture all the cases that are diagnosed by GPs based on clinical history as well as those diagnosed via laboratory blood test results, supporting evidence that the number of cases reported has, until now, represented an underestimation.”
It will also hopefully help to identify groups of people who may be at an increased risk of contracting the disease.