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Poor access to specialist nurses for COPD patients

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There has been a nine per cent reduction in access to specialist respiratory nursing services for patients living with COPD since 2008, according to a Royal College of Physicians' report.

The National COPD Programme Report also found that overall care has improved for those affected by the condition, particularly in palliative services, which saw a 37 per cent increase in provision since 2008. However, the report reiterated the unacceptable regional variation in access to COPD services across England and Wales. Other areas identified as needing improvement were the provision of dietetic and smoking cessation services for COPD patients.

The report also outlined several recommendations to improve the care of COPD patients, including a requirement for patients to receive an opinion from a respiratory specialist within 24 hours. It also advocates community and primary care providers working collaboratively with local respiratory programme groups to improve coordinated care and formalise COPD pathways.

Janet Davies, the RCN's director of nursing, said: 'Nurses who work with patients with these serious and distressing conditions will be rightly pleased that their efforts have helped to improve care. However, we cannot overstate the importance of access to clinical nurse specialists, who can give exemplary support and treatment to both patients and other professionals. The focus has to be on helping patients to manage their conditions, and specialist nurses are in the best place to do this. It is very concerning that many patients cannot access specialist care when they need it.'

Rebecca Sherrington, chair of the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists, said: 'We are really pleased to see that this audit has demonstrated that there have been significant improvements in care for people with COPD since 2008, including an improvement in the availability of palliative care services. The management of patients with respiratory failure has improved and there is better access to teams who can support an early discharge from hospital. However, we are disappointed to note that there has been a 9% drop in access to specialist respiratory nurse care despite an increase in the number of people admitted with COPD. ARNS strongly supports the call for people with this disabling disease to be able to access expert nursing support to help manage their condition'.

The report claims that 835,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with the
disease, with a further 2 million cases thought to be unidentified. COPD kills approximately 25,000 people per annum in England and Wales, is the fifth biggest killer in the UK and the only major cause of death on the increase.

November 19 is World COPD Day, an annual event created by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease to raise awareness of the condition and support those living with it. For more information, visit:

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