Leaders in lung health have called for more investment in specialist lung teams operating across the NHS to reduce pressure on hospitals in winter.
The call, which coincides with the British Thoracic Society’s (BTS) summer meeting in York, comes as growing evidence underlines the severe impact of respiratory disease on NHS hospitals during the winter.
The BTS found that during each winter between 2008-9 and 2012-13, hospital admissions across England for respiratory disease surpassed those for heart disease and digestive, musculo-skeletal and genito-urinary problems.
Furthermore, in 2014/15 78% more people died from respiratory diseases in the winter period, compared with the non-winter period.
A key aim of these integrated lung teams is to improve a patient’s quality of life by providing better access to specialist care and expertise outside hospitals.
To achieve this, the BTS is suggesting a specialist range of medical, psychological and lifestyle support for respiratory patients at home, or close by.
The objective is to prevent future hospital admissions by providing the most effective treatment and support in the community.
A new BTS committee is currently reviewing this new way of providing care but early signs indicate that similar projects are gaining strong results in improving patient health and reducing NHS costs.
Therefore, the society is now calling on NHS England to meet and discuss the projects with a view to funding a number of dedicated healthy lung pilots as part of their vanguard programme.
Dr Justine Hadcroft, consultant respiratory physician and member of the British Thoracic Society said: “During the winter we often see headlines about NHS hospitals trying to cope with large numbers of often older people with chronic conditions being admitted to hospital as their health worsens. Lung disease accounts for the lion’s share of these admissions.
She adds that treating patients at home or close by “can help prevent their health worsening and the need for hospital treatment in the first place”.
She added: “A number of innovative projects already exist where lung specialists are using their expertise outside the hospital gates, in partnership with colleagues in the community, to deliver better patient care and reduce NHS costs – but we need more.
“The British Thoracic Society looks forward to working with NHS England on developing and evaluating these new approaches to promoting better lung health in communities and planning how these may become more embedded across the NHS.”