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New COPD standards to tackle inequalities

Published on 29/06/06 at 11:25am

New national standards for the treatment of one of the biggest killers in the UK have been launched, with a pledge from the government to improve patient care and tackle inequalities.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a number of serious respiratory conditions including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Around three million people suffer from the condition in the UK, with 30,000 dying each year because of COPD, which is primarily caused by smoking.

Awareness of the condition is also low among the general population, even though it kills more women each year than breast cancer

The government says the NHS' new National Service Framework for the condition will provide more choice in treatment for patients, reduce regional inequalities in treatment, and improve standards of care for patients.

Launching the plans at a British Thoracic Society event in the House of Commons, Health Services minister Rosie Winterton said: "While there are many examples of new and innovative approaches in COPD care in some areas, best practice is not always followed and there is considerable variation in COPD services across the country.

"It is clear that more needs to be done to ensure that all patients suffering from this debilitating disease are given the standards of care they deserve."

An External Reference Group is to be established to bring together health professionals, service users and carers and health service managers, to advise on the development of the framework.

It will be jointly chaired by Professor Peter Calverley, President of the British Thoracic Society, and Professor Sue Hill, chief scientific officer at the Department of Health.

"Answers to the problems faced by patients with COPD and the healthcare professionals who have a vital role in their care cannot be found overnight," said Prof Sue Hill.

"It is vital that we take time to seek the views of the whole COPD community on how the NSF should tackle these challenging issues.

"The announcement of the NSF is very timely, and a chance to ensure COPD services fit with recent reforms to the whole health and social care system."

A new report on the prevalence and impact of respiratory disease by the The British Thoracic Society (BTS) says respiratory disease kills one in five people in the UK and costs the health service more than 6 billion pounds every year.

The society welcomed the new framework but said a government lead needed to be appointed to co-ordinate the work, plus there should be further national policies relating to occupational lung disease (especially mesothelioma) and an increase in research funding for respiratory diseases.


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