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Respiratory care needs a 'higher profile'

Respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) desperately lack funding and need a higher profile, a group of specialist nurses has claimed. 

Responding to an inquiry into asthma deaths, the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (ARNS) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for greater awareness of the effects of respiratory conditions, and the positive effect of highly trained nurses. 

Specialist nurses can offer support and advice to help patients manage their conditions. 

However, access to services varies widely across the UK, with patients in some areas being unable to access support. 

The groups are calling for: 

 - More funding for public awareness campaigns for respiratory conditions, and smoking cessation messages targeted at 16-24 year olds. 

 - Investing in education and support for non-specialists who encounter respiratory illness regularly, for example, practice nurses. 

 - Encouraging early diagnosis of COPD through a targeted screening programme. 

Rebecca Sherrington, chair of the 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 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.”