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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Chronic lung care 'will improve'
Doctor checking patient
COPD affects one in 20 Britons
The government has pledged to improve care for chronic lung conditions, as a report criticises current efforts.

The Healthcare Commission report says there is an urgent need to improve diagnosis and care in an area that is often given a low priority.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, the umbrella term for a range of lung conditions such as chronic bronchitis, affects up to one in 20 Britons.

The government has proposed a new framework for delivering services.

The shocking statistics on death rates and growing incidence speak for themselves
Helena Shovelton
British Lung Foundation

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "The development of a new National Service Framework is an important step which will support the NHS in managing and delivering COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease] services more effectively, in a way that supports patient choice.

"It will support improvements in standards, tackle the current inequalities in COPD care and ensure that patients are able to access the services they need, where and when they want them."

Neglected condition

COPD, which includes conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is now the fifth most common cause of death in the UK.

It is an incurable, but largely preventable condition, usually caused by smoking. Sufferers have permanently damaged lungs and experience breathing difficulties.

A study carried out by health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission, says services for people with COPD have been neglected.

It highlights the limited understanding of COPD amongst healthcare professionals and the lack of structured treatment for patients.

Anna Walker, the commission's chief executive, said: "There is an urgent need to improve diagnosis and care for people suffering from the condition.

"Doing so will make a real difference to people's lives and there is evidence that it is more cost effective for the NHS.

"Patients need their condition to be properly diagnosed and their care and treatment reviewed regularly and systematically, not just when things go wrong."

'Shocking statistics'

Newly published findings from a survey of 100 COPD patients by the British Lung Foundation also demonstrated shortcomings in care and treatment.

It found that only 17% of respondents were told they had COPD at their first consultation, 57% said their doctor had not given advice on controlling their breathing, and 37% said their GP did not explain that stopping smoking would slow the progression of the disease.

Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, welcomed the Department of Health's announcement.

She said: "The shocking statistics on death rates and growing incidence speak for themselves, and our own survey clearly shows that there is an urgent need for improvement in the way the disease is diagnosed, treated and managed."

The government is planning to bring together a group of healthcare professionals, service users and carers and health service managers to advise on the development of the framework.


SEE ALSO
COPD (respiratory disease)
14 Mar 06 |  Medical notes

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