This site is intended for health professionals only

A new National Strategy for COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) places a huge burden on the NHS, with increasing numbers of people in the UK suffering from the condition. As a result, the Department of Health will be publishing a National Strategy for COPD in 2010 with the aim of improving diagnosis, management and treatment

Most of us will know someone who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The harsh reality is that one person dies in England from COPD every 20 minutes - a loss of about 25,000 lives every year.1

COPD presents a huge challenge to society, both now and in the future. Approximately 835,000 people in England have been diagnosed with COPD;2 however, we estimate that over 3 million people have the disease. Many live with the condition.

This contributes to the economic burden of COPD associated with the long-term medical management and disability-related costs. The direct cost of COPD to the UK healthcare system is estimated to be between £810 and £930m a year3 and, without change, this impact is set to grow.
COPD is the second most common cause of emergency admission to hospital and the fifth largest cause for readmission to hospital. It is also one of the most costly diseases in terms of acute hospital care.

The Department of Health plans to publish a National Strategy for COPD in 2010. This is intended to help:

  • Reduce the risk of developing COPD by developing improved prevention and health promotion initiatives.
  • Identify those people with, or at risk of developing, COPD as early as possible.
  • Ensure an accurate diagnosis, evidence-based treatment and proactive management and regular review through an integrated care pathway to provide the right care in the right place for the right person inclusive of comprehensive community based services where most people are cared for.
  • Ensure better support for people and their carers to become active partners in their care.
  • Provide the best support and treatment during a period when the condition worsens through the integration of services and care across the primary, secondary and tertiary sector in the NHS and social care.
  • Provide access to the best available support to those at the end of life and for those who are bereaved.
  • Highlight areas where there are synergies in the approach to the care of people with asthma and where there are differences, and also highlight some aspects of good asthma services.

The aim of the strategy is to advise how local communities can prevent people from developing COPD, understand the risks of having poor lung health, secure improvements to the diagnosis and care of people with the disease, and reduce health inequalities. We want to support people with COPD and their carers by offering practical advice and education on managing their disease.

Our aim is to ensure that everyone diagnosed with COPD receives equitable, responsive, high-quality and effective health and social care services from the right person, at the right time, in the right place, that are effective and provide good value for money for taxpayers.

To support the implementation of the National Strategy for COPD and ensure that the workforce is fit for purpose, a Workforce Strategy has been developed. Alongside this, a Competence Development Framework will be published to support clinicians in delivering a high-quality service to those at risk of, or who have been diagnosed with, COPD. In addition, a suite of e-learning modules is being developed in collaboration with NHS E-Learning for Health (ELfH), which will help to drive up the quality of COPD services.

1. Office of National Statistics (ONS). Deaths by age, sex and selected underlying cause, 2008 registrations. London: ONS; 2008.
2. Department of Health (DH). Quality and Outcomes Framework 2008/2009. London: DH; 2009. Available from:
3. British Thoracic Society (BTS). Burden of Lung Disease, 2nd Edition. London: BTS; 2006. Available from: