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Concerns over home oxygen service sparks revamp

By Nigel Praities

The Government is to launch a wholesale revamp of home oxygen services after its review of the current system found it was failing patients.

The review highlighted ‘particular concern' over the clinical assessment of patients, with many COPD patients not using the home oxygen they were prescribed and others who would benefit from home oxygen not receiving it.

It also warned of problems with supplier contracts coming up for renewal and urged the Government to ensure patients had continuity of supply.

The home oxygen scheme has been mired in controversy ever since the changeover to private suppliers in 2006.

Pulse revealed last year that the cost of the service had spiralled in recent years after the transfer of supply from pharmacists to private providers.

The report insists ‘certain groups of patients expressed satisfaction with the current quality of service', but admits: ‘Others with COPD felt still there were many elements which were sub-optimal.'

The latest report – commissioned by chief scientific officer Professor Sue Hill – has sparked a root-and-branch overall of the service to make it work.

Dr Mike Thomas, a GP in Gloucester and a member of the home oxygen task-force at the Department of Health, said there were still ‘major problems' with the home oxygen service, but they were looking at how to implement the report's recommendations.

‘In spite of the effort that has gone in to improve the way patients receive oxygen, there are still major problems.

‘GPs need support in decision making and it is important that patients are supported and there is continuity in provision, so they know who to contact when there are problems and the providers aren't changing every 10 minutes,' he said.

Dr Thomas said they were looking at giving PCTs specifications for setting up GPSI or hospital-based clinics to assess and look after patients with home oxygen.

A Government spokesperson said: ‘Continuity of service is a priority and throughout the process of re-procuring the supply contracts, we will work with commissioners and suppliers to ensure that there is no interruption in service.

‘The DH alongside the NHS are working to ensure the new service provides value for money, while still maintaining quality at the core of the service,' she said.

The Government's review of home oxygen services found the current system is failing patients The Government's review of home oxygen services found the current system is failing patients

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