Date Published: 15 January 2014

Respiratory illnesses - Low profile & poorly resourced, according to nurses

According to evidence recently submitted to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Respiratory Health inquiry into respiratory deaths by the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (ARNS) and Royal College of Nursing (RCN), treatment of respiratory illnesses in the UK suffers due to the relatively low-profile and (some say 'under') resourcing of this area of healthcare.

The submission by the ARNS and RCN includes evidence from both organisations and draws on the experience of nurses working with thousands of patients across the UK. Overall the evidence suggests that respiratory illnesses such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) often have a low profile and are poorly resourced compared with other medical conditions.

In advance of the publication of a national inquiry into asthma deaths, the ARNS and RCN have called for greater awareness of the effects of respiratory conditions and the positive difference which can be made by extending access to highly trained specialist nurses. Specialist nurses can offer support and advice to help patients to manage their conditions but, unfortunately, there is considerable variability across the UK, with patients in some areas being unable to access support.


Respiratory nurses are calling for the following specific changes:

  • Increased investment in public awareness of respiratory conditions, and smoking cessation messages targeted at 16 ? 24 year olds
  • Investing in education and support for non-specialists who encounter respiratory illnesses regularly, for example Practice Nurses
  • Encouraging early diagnosis of COPD via a targeted screening programme
  • Introduce a nurse lead for asthma and COPD in every Clinical Commissioning Group.

Nurses' leaders have commented on care of patients suffering from respiratory illnesses, as follows:

Rebecca Sherrington, Chair, Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists, said:

" Respiratory disease affects one in five people in the UK. The UK's mortality rates for respiratory conditions are among the highest in Europe. ARNS therefore welcomes this inquiry, as it provides the opportunity to evaluate and focus on changes to health policy and clinical practice, which will ultimately improve patient care.
_ Nurses are vital in the delivery of respiratory care throughout the whole patient journey and we have therefore responded, by sharing our members' best practice, experiences and views with the inquiry."

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN said:

" Specialist nurses can help patients with respiratory illnesses to manage their conditions, stay well and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions. Sadly however, respiratory illnesses are often overlooked as a poor relation to other public health issues. Unmanaged, asthma and COPD too often prove fatal, and it is time for the NHS as a whole to focus on preventing and managing these conditions. A patient should be able to expect the same high standard of care wherever they live, and respiratory nurses have a crucial role in delivering that."

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
For more information see http://www.rcn.org.uk.

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