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Fears on respiratory nurses' training

Primary care respiratory nurses are often insufficiently trained and may not be able to care for patients adequately, researchers warn

A survey of 500 randomly selected respiratory practice nurses highlighted many cases where they were potentially working beyond their competence. Of the nurses heavily involved with patients with COPD, half did not have accredited COPD training and 92% did not have accredited training in spirometry. A fifth of nurses providing autonomous care to patients with asthma lacked accredited asthma training.

Study author Monica Fletcher, chief executive of Education for Health, said the results, published in the Primary Care Respiratory Care Journal, reflected the fact that there was no mandatory training for practice nurses.

‘At least when you go and see your GP you know they have received some training and accreditation. But to be a practice nurse, you can walk off a ward one day and go to work in primary care.'

Dr Kevin Gruffydd-Jones, a GP in Wiltshire and member of the General Practice Airways Group, said the lack of training in spirometry was a ‘huge problem'. He added: ‘If we are asking nurses to perform an advanced role then they should have the appropriate training, which they obviously aren't getting.'

Carol Stonham, a respiratory nurse at a practice in Gloucestershire, welcomed the study for highlighting that nurses' training had been overlooked with a potential impact on patient care: ‘Patients may not be getting the best service and not getting control of symptoms.'

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