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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 10:25 GMT
Bill to boost sleep disorder care
sleeping man
Sleep disorders are on the increase
Campaigners have called for concerted action to improve awareness and treatment of a sleep disorder which plagues thousands of people.

The Sleep Apnoea Bill was launched at the House of Commons on Tuesday by Labour MP Alice Mahon.

It calls for a review of clinical practice, and better access to diagnostic and treatment facilities.

Sleep apnoea is common among obese people, and is set to become more widespread as obesity levels rise.

We can improve the lives of these sufferers by increasing the provision of sleep services at a very modest cost.
Frank Govan
The new Bill, drafted by the Commons Working Group on Sleep Disorders, says a greater focus is needed tackle sleep apnoea.

It says primary care trusts must give the problem a greater priority.

And it calls on the NHS watchdog, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to review the current standard of available care.

It is estimated that sleep disorders currently affect 770,000 people in the UK.

Approximately two thirds of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) sufferers are overweight.

The condition is caused by the back of the throat repeatedly collapsing during sleep, making breathing impossible.

Huge effect

Professor John Stradling, an expert in respiratory medicine, said sleep disorders were not currently covered by Department of Health guidelines.

He said this meant that some primary care trusts had failed to commission important services.

Ms Mahon said: "Sleep disorders have a huge effect on thousands of people's lives.

"The excessive daytime sleepiness can result in road accidents, accidents at work and in sufferers losing their jobs.

"Failure to address this issue smacks of short-termism.

"Effective diagnosis and treatment would save the Chancellor millions and save patients and victims of accidents a great deal of unnecessary suffering."

Frank Govan, chairman of the Sleep Apnoea Trust, said: "Tens of thousands of people suffer from a sleep disorder, but do not realise their symptoms can be treated.

"Without proper diagnosis and treatment, their personal relationships and their careers are in constant jeopardy.

"We can improve the lives of these sufferers by increasing the provision of sleep services at a very modest cost."

Professor Andrew Peacock, of the British Thoracic Society, said: "A chronic lack of lung specialists and 'diagnostic sleep centres' in the UK is currently hampering fast referrals for diagnosis and treatment.

"Also provision for investigation and treatment of OSA is one of the worst examples of postcode prescribing, since some Primary Care Trusts fail to recognise it as a problem - indeed, recent BTS research shows that sleep disease sufferers have to wait eight years to get their symptoms checked out."

Sleep disorder 'damages brain'
04 Sep 03  |  Health

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